Photo via Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
If you’ve been paying attention to your social media feed, national headlines, or our own updates, you’ve probably heard about Facebook’s recent scandal over the privacy of its user data. Now, after weeks of criticism towards the social networking giant, Facebook is finally opening up about the scope of its tangential relationship with Trump-backed firm Cambridge Analytica, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares to answer for the site’s lack of user protections in front of Congress later this week.
Last month, an employee at Cambridge Analytica — a data analytics firm hired by the Trump campaign in 2016 to help influence voters — came forward to confirm that the shady company had used data from tens of millions of unsuspecting Facebook users to psychologically profile potential voters and target them with political advertisements.
While the true influence of Cambridge Analytica and their use of Facebook data on 2016 election is still largely unknown, the idea that up to 87 million Facebook users could have had their information manipulated by shadowy political advertisers has sparked significant outrage with Facebook itself, and more specifically, towards Zuckerberg.
In the weeks since the Cambridge Analytica scandal first broke, Facebook has seen a rash of users delete their profiles, and a number of high-profile lawmakers call on Zuckerberg to answer for the site’s lenient privacy policies in congressional testimony. In media appearances over the past month, Zuckerberg has said that he made a “huge mistake” by ignoring the social networking platform’s larger influence on society.
According to ABC News, today Facebook will move to inform all users if their information might have been accessed by Cambridge Analytica before the 2016 presidential election, with millions of people expected to get the security notification. Using a survey app called “This Is Your Digital Life,” the analytics company was able to obtain the information of not only the 270,000 people who filled out the survey, but also all of their friends — a web of profiles and personal data from almost more than 70 million Americans. For Facebook users who weren’t involved in the Cambridge Analytica data dump, the social media site will still send an message giving users information about how their data can be shared and what they can do to protect it.
Happening Today @ Noon EDT#Facebook will be sending notification links to users of abused data— Robert Brune (@RJBrune) April 9, 2018
The longer message provides a link to users who’s information had been used by Cambridge Analytica pic.twitter.com/ziMozH2kyU
And even though Facebook did not actually breach their terms of service, the fact that the company allowed such far-reaching access to users’ personal profiles has created a lasting uproar against the Silicon Valley darling.
In addition to the public notices, Zuckerberg will finally speak to federal lawmakers on Tuesday, where he is expected to answer personally for Facebook’s data policies.
“For every major C.E.O., and now for Mark Zuckerberg, this is a rite of passage,” Reed E. Hundt, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, told the New York Times. “Facebook has become so important — not just to business but to society — it can’t avoid having to run the congressional gantlet [sic].”
Because Facebook didn’t break any laws, it doesn’t seem likely that the social media titan will see any congressional repercussions, but with hashtags like #DeleteFacebook continually making the rounds on Twitter, any missteps from Zuckerberg could perpetuate the company’s public relations freefall.
For Facebook users who do receive a notification today about their personal data making its way to Cambridge Analytica, there isn’t much that can be done, except to delete the site’s third-party apps and pay heightened attention to your sharing habits — that is, if you care about preventing corporate America from using your likes and pokes for their own profit.