The Fall of Facebook?: the Aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Facebook has been heavily profiled in the news lately, due to a massive questioning of how users’ data is handled, after political data firm Cambridge Analytica had access to over 50 million Facebook users’ private data, which was, in turn, able to use the data in their work for the Trump campaign in 2016. The backlash against Facebook has been substantial, with companies, celebrities, and everyday users leaving the site and speaking out against misinformation of privacy policies and misuse and mishandling of personal data. But how did we get here? This scandal is years in the making.

Background:

In 2010, Facebook launched the original version of their Open Graph API, allowing third-party app developers access to user data, following this, Facebook signed a decree with the US Federal Trade Commission, consenting that user data will not be shared without the user’s permission. In 2013, Cambridge Analytica is founded by UK strategy company Strategic Communication Laboratories Group as a US branch. The founding was orchestrated by Steve Bannon, and funded in part by the Mercer family, a Republican donor and Breitbart News backer.

How did Cambridge Analytica get the data?

Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan created a personality test (for Cambridge Analytica) similar to one created by the University’s Psychometric Quiz that had been gathering Facebook data since 2007, which the University refused to share with Cambridge Analytica. Through the new test created by Kogan, the data firm collected 270,000 people’s data with their knowledge, but against Facebook’s terms, the app also collects the information of those original 270,000 users’ friends without their consent or knowledge.  Cambridge Analytica now has over 50 million profiles in its database.

What is happening now?

Christopher Wylie, a former data scientist for Cambridge Analytica becomes a whistleblower on the company’s activity and triggered the investigations into Cambridge Analytica and Facebook from governments around the world.

There is a movement to delete Facebook, which has been joined by Cher, Will Ferrell, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, and Tesla founder/CEO Elon Musk, as well as Musk having the SpaceX and Tesla Facebook pages deleted. There are multiple businesses cancelling their ads, and removing themselves from the platform, and investors are nervous as stocks fall.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since responded to public outcry, first saying that the main issues have already been resolved, and then in a second statement saying that he takes minimal issue with regulating Facebook more heavily. Zuckerberg has refused to testify about the privacy violation and misuse of content in front of UK MPs but will testify before Congress in the coming months.

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