05 Apr'18

Facebook: has it become too big for them to monitor the use of users’ personal data?


Facebook announced in March that in 2015 they found that a University of Cambridge named Dr Aleksandr Kogan violated their Platform Policies by passing data from an app using Facebook Login to Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Alaytica a firm that ‘uses data to change audience behaviour’ within commercial and political divisions.


Outlining the situation, Facebook described how the 270 000 people that downloaded Kogan’s app This Is Your Digital Life gave consent for Kogan to access their personal information. Kogan’s crime was not that he passed on this information to a third party.


Facebook subsequently removed Kogan’s app and demanded receipt from all third parties that all personal information was destroyed.


This story is only now coming to light after Facebook received reports that not all the data was deleted.  Specifically, a whistle-blower told The Observer information about Cambridge Analytica having the information of Facebook profiles to be used to influence voters of the US election.


Facebook assure us that they ‘are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information’. They will ‘take legal action if necessary’ and will ‘take whatever steps are required’.


In an updated press release, Facebook’s hired investigators have stood aside following the request from the Information Commissioner Officer who are conducting their own investigation.


Cambridge Analytica have published a report saying that they ‘have offered to share with the ICO all the information that it asked for’.


Following this revelation, Facebook’s share prices have dropped. Reuters reported on 21st March that ‘there was a 1.6 percent drop in Facebook shares in premarket trading’. Quoting Stephen Hu, an analyst at Credit Suisse, said they ‘anticipate that the stock will be subject to further headline risks in the coming weeks as senior management is summoned to DC for hearings’.


Zuckerberg did appear on CNN and apologised for what has happened.


In another attempt to demonstrate that they are tightening up their protection of users’ personal data, Facebook have announced that they are not using third party data companies. Data from third party companies, like Experian and Axicom, were previously used ‘to build targeting features for marketers’, as stated by Facebook in 2013.  According to Recode‘s report of Facebook’s changing relationship with third party companies is a ‘broader effort to clean up data practises’. This would not have changed the outcome of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal.


The New York Attorney, Eric T Schneiderman, summoned Facebook to hand over all the information they have on Cambridge Analytica’s use of personal data. In a official government statement, Schneiderman stated ‘we send a demand letter to Facebook – the first step in our joint investigation to get to the bottom of what happened’.


According to The Guardian, the UK government have also expressed their concern about Facebook’s data breach. The Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock stated ‘Facebook has some serious questions to answer here’.


Has Facebook become so big that it is near on impossible to have complete control of the platform, subsequently putting personal data at risk?



Image credit: ‘Mark Zuckerberg’ by Alessio Jacona on Flickr. Licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0