Facebook has begun notifying any of those users whose data is known to have been harvested and shared with data mining firm Cambridge Analytica.
On Your News Feed
If you are one of the 87 million people whose data has been shared, 1 million of whom are in the UK, when you log into your Facebook account, you will see a detailed message beginning with the words "We understand the importance of keeping your data safe.”
It is now understood that the data of 2.2 billion Facebook users was actually shared by Facebook, and all of these users will be receiving a message entitled "Protecting Your Information". This message will include a link which will allow them to see what apps they use, and what information they have shared with those apps. Users will also be given the option to stop sharing information with the apps or to stop any access to third-party apps altogether.
It should be noted, however, that Facebook stopped allowing third-party apps from gathering data about the likes, status updates and other information shared by users' friends back in 2015. Also, Facebook has taken action recently to make information such as religious and political views out-of-bounds to apps.
If you don’t trust Facebook to notify you if your information has been shared with Cambridge Analytica, you can check for yourself by following this link: https://www.facebook.com/help/1873665312923476?helpref=search&sr=1&query=cambridge
This relates, of course, to revelations that Facebook shared the data of its users with London-based data mining firm Cambridge Analytica via a personality quiz app, called "You Are What You Like" (later replaced by the "Apply Magic Sauce" app), that had reportedly been developed for legitimate academic purposes. Revelations that the website from the original quiz re-directed uses to a new one with different terms and conditions, thereby enabling users data to be harvested and reportedly used for political purposes by Cambridge Analytica (the same company used by the Trump election campaign) and by Canadian data company AggregateIQ (AIQ) who were involved in the Vote Leave campaign in the UK referendum, have caused wide-scale outrage.
Facebook is also reported to have suspended a data analytics firm involved with targeted advertising and marketing called Cubeyou. Cubeyou is reported to have collected data for academic purposes, and allegedly used it commercially, as part of a partnership with Cambridge University in the UK (who have also found themselves implicated in the scandal).
Game Changer Says ICO Chief
The head of the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Elizabeth Denham, has said that what happened with Facebook’s data sharing with Cambridge Analytica can be seen as a game-changer in data protection. The ICO has revealed that Facebook is now one of 30 organisations under wider investigation for the sharing and use of personal data and analytics with political campaigns, parties, social media companies and other commercial organisations.
Denham has said that although the Facebook scandal has drawn attention to the ICO’s ‘Your data matters’ campaign, it is too early to say whether the changes the social networking firm is making are sufficient under the law.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
If you have been directly affected by Facebook’s data sharing you will have been informed in your Facebook account, and you can follow the link (given earlier in this article) to check for yourself.
As ICO Chief Elizabeth Denham has rightly said, this is an important time for privacy rights, particularly since the introduction of GDPR is little more than a month away. The widespread outrage and condemnation of Facebook’s data sharing with Cambridge Analytica highlights how important data protection and privacy rights are to us all. This should serve as a reminder to businesses and other organisations that as well as making sure that they comply with GDPR to avoid negative consequences, GDPR preparation is an opportunity to fully examine the important issue of how data is being used and stored, and where vulnerabilities are, and how simple improvements could be made that could protect and help the business as a whole.