The world’s largest social media network has come under scrutiny for a massive privacy breach resulting in the disclosure and potentially misuse of the personal information of millions of Facebook users
As reported by NME, the London-based data mining and analytics company Cambridge Analytica allegedly harvested data from as many as 50 million Facebook users, which it used for targeted advertising during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
Facebook’s recent privacy breach was made public by 26-year-old Christopher Wylie who worked at Cambridge Analytica during the privacy debacle. Wylie says that Cambridge Analytica used a personality quiz app to harvest personal data on Facebook users. When a user agreed to the app’s terms and conditioners, he or she gave permission for the app to collect their personal data. It didn’t stop there, however. The app also harvested the personal information of users’ friends even if those friends didn’t download or otherwise use the app.
Cambridge Analytica allegedly sought to acquire personal information about Facebook users’ likes and dislikes so that it could create profiles for marketing purposes. By analyzing users’ profiles and quiz results, it could determine who users were voting for and how their decisions could be influenced.
In response to these allegations, Cambridge Analytica says it did not break the law and all personal information was harvested with users’ permission. Facebook deleted Wylie’s profile shortly after his whistleblower report emerged.
According to MarketWatch, Facebook has lost roughly $40 billion in market capitalization following this revelation. Investors fear that Facebook’s privacy breach could send users away from the platform. And with fewer users, there’s less inventory for advertisers, which means less revenue for Facebook.
Facebook has come under fire for privacy breaches in the past. In 2011, the social media company settled with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations that it deceived users by failing to protect their privacy. In 2013, a study conducted by High-Tech Bridge revealed that links in Facebook’s messaging system were used by the social media network for other purposes. While Facebook has generally recovered from previous data breaches, experts say this incident is a different story. The Cambridge Analytica breach has exposed the data of some 50 million users, making it one of Facebook’s larges breaches to date. Whether this brings change to the platform’s privacy policies, however, remains to be seen.