Facebook + Personal Data + Cambridge = Controversy

Facebook has built its highly profitable social network off its users, selling advertisements based on their ages, interests and other details. But the scrutiny over the company’s vast trove of personal data — following a report that a political consulting firm had improperly obtained information of 50 million users — is taking direct aim at that lucrative formula. 4

[Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg … sought to defend his company's data collection practices, claiming that "the vast majority" of data that users share is "data you chose to share." 1

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Facebook revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to President Trump's campaign, may have had data on 87 million people. 1

In a response …, Cambridge Analytica asserted that it had licensed data from no more than 30 million people via research company GSR. The firm also asserted that it did not use any GSR data in its work in the 2016 presidential election and insisted that it had immediately expunged all GSR data from its systems after Facebook alerted it to the breach. 2

In 2013, Mr. Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge researcher, created a personality quiz app that about 300,000 people installed, Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. Because Facebook was an open platform, Mr. Kogan was able to collect data on tens of millions of friends of those users who had installed the personality quiz app. 3

Mr. Kogan, a professor at Cambridge University, paid users small sums to take a personality quiz and download an app, which collected private information from their profiles and from those of their friends. Facebook allowed that sort of data collection at the time. 4

By 2015, Mr. Kogan had shared his data and findings with Cambridge Analytica, which later used the material to single out American voters. Mr. Zuckerberg said Facebook had banned Mr. Kogan’s app and demanded that the researcher and Cambridge Analytica formally certify that the data had been deleted. 3

[In 2014], Mr. Zuckerberg said, Facebook changed its policy to limit how much data third-party apps could access. “These actions would prevent any app like Kogan’s from being able to access so much data today [April 2018],” he wrote. 3

The social networking giant is also facing an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which is looking into whether Facebook violated an agreement with the agency… The F.T.C. investigation is connected to a settlement the agency reached with Facebook in 2011 after finding that the company had told users that third-party apps on the social media site, like games, would not be allowed to access their data. But the apps, the agency found, were able to obtain almost all personal information about a user. 4

In a blog post Wednesday [Apr 4, 2018], Facebook's chief technology officer announced limits to developers' access and new restrictions regarding an account recovery feature that could have enabled bad actors to scrape user data. 1

[Mr. Zuckerberg] traced the information-sharing issue to 2007, when Facebook decided to become an open platform — enabling people to use Facebook to log into other apps and share detailed personal information about themselves and their friends. 3

Facebook also announced [on April 4, 2018] the details of the most extensive revamp of its privacy settings in several years.  The changes tighten controls on a range of activities. 1

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Links below were valid as of April 5, 2018:

1. http://money.cnn.com/2018/04/04/technology/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-security-privacy/index.html

2. http://deadline.com/2018/04/facebook-zuckerberg-cambridge-analytica-87-million-users-huge-mistake-1202358596/

3. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/technology/facebook-zuckerberg-data-privacy.html

4. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/business/ftc-facebook-privacy-investigation.html