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Understanding Facebooks Data Privacy Scandal and what is #DeleteFacebook

facebook data privacy scandal
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#DeleteFacebook is trending all around the world and ironically the hashtag is taking over not only Twitter but Facebook as well. The Facebook scandal has captured the imagination of a lot of online users who are active on social media, as well as those who aren’t. The fact that Facebook keeps changing its privacy settings on a regular basis is known, but never before has a third party used Facebook’s internal data and sold it to an external client.

A while back, we had a taste of Facebook’s controversial user privacy policies here in India when WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) was asked by the Supreme Court to stop sharing user data with its parent company.

You May Also Like: How To Delete Personal Data On Facebook Without Deleting Your Account

Now, in what seems to be a much bigger breach of user privacy, Facebook was found providing private user data to Cambridge Analytica and Strategic Communications Laboratories- two data analytics and mining firms that worked on US President Donald Trump’s election campaign, leading to a data leakage affecting 50 million users.

On Friday night, the company made its first move, jumping out in front of the news reports to publish its own blog post announcing that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica’s use of the platform.

While Facebook calls it a violation of its data usage policies and has denied any “data breach”, the company disclosed that in 2015, a psychology professor named Aleksandr Kogan from the University of Cambridge created a Facebook app named “thisisyourdigitallife”, designed as a personality prediction tool. The app download required a Facebook login, giving the developers access to information about a user’s city of residence, things they liked on Facebook as well as information about their friends.

What’s Cambridge Analytica and why is it in the news?

Cambridge Analytica (CA) is a UK-based data analytics firm with its parent company named Strategic Communications Laboratories. That firms worked on US President Donald Trump’s election campaign, leading to a data leakage affecting 50 million users. The purpose of CA is to come up with online political campaigns, reach out to potential voters online and it does this by combining data from multiple sources including online information.

Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie recently told The Observer that the practice was a “grossly unethical experiment” which had no concern for Facebook users’ privacy and consent. In The New York Times’ reveal, the publication notes, “Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.”

What is Facebook’s say in all of this?

According to Facebook, “In 2015, we learned that a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge named Dr. Aleksandr Kogan lied to us and violated our Platform Policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook Login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica.

Paul Grewal, VP & Deputy General Counsel, said in a statement:

The claim that this is a data breach is completely false. Aleksandr Kogan requested and gained access to information from users who chose to sign up to his app, and everyone involved gave their consent. People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked.


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