The story so far
Last Saturday, whistle blower Christopher Wylie revealed to The Observer how Aleksandr Kogan had harvested data from 50 million Facebook users via a personality quiz and, through his company Global Science Research, had shared that data with data firm Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica is accused of improperly using the data on behalf of political clients, including Trump. To make matters worse for the company, an undercover investigation by Channel 4 showed, the now suspended head of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix boasting of using dirty tricks, such as creating sex scandals and fake news, to swing elections.
Zuckerberg, who broke his silence with this Facebook post before being interviewed on CNN, has been called before Parliament to provide evidence over the use of data by Cambridge Analytica. Congress have also called him to testify as to how his company will protect the data of its users.
Since the news broke, some brands have pulled their advertising spend off the platform and searches for ‘delete Facebook’ have increased by over 400%. It remains to be seen what the wider fall out will be for the platform, but Facebook will need to make significant changes in order to rebuild trust from their advertisers and users.
So what are Facebook planning to do about this?
To address current and past problems, Zuckerberg said in his Facebook post that his company would:
- investigate all Facebook apps that had access to large amounts of information before the platform was changed “to dramatically reduce data access” in 2014
- conduct a “full forensic audit” of any app with suspicious activity
- ban any developer that did not agree to a thorough audit
- ban developers that had misused personally identifiable information, and “tell everyone affected by those apps”
In future, he said Facebook would:
- restrict developers’ data access “even further” to prevent other kinds of abuse
- remove developers’ access to a user’s data if the user hadn’t activated the developer’s app for three months
- reduce the data that users give an app when they sign in to just name, profile photo, and email address
- require developers to obtain approval and also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data
Tips on how you can protect your Facebook data
If you’re concerned about your data, then it’s important to take steps to protect it. Facebook have announced they will be making it easier for users to see what apps they have given permissions to, and revoke them if needed, by adding the tool to the top of the News Feed within the next month, here’s what you can do in the meantime:
- Log into Facebook and click on the drop-down menu in the top right. Find “Settings” and then click “Apps”. If you click on the apps, it will show what kinds of information they have access to. Click “Remove” to stop an app accessing your data.
- On the same page you’ll find “Apps, Websites and Plugins”. Clicking “Edit” and then “Disable platform” will stop all third-party apps from linking to your Facebook account.
- Using the Facebook app on your phone or tablet can enable Facebook to gather further personal data. You can limit the data gathered by disabling location tracking. On an iPhone go to “Settings”, then to “Privacy” and then “Location Services” to choose whether you want Facebook to track your movements. For Android, click “Account Settings,” then “Location” and look for Facebook there.