Social media giant Facebook has revealed that the data belonging to users numbering nearly 87 million, mostly in the U.S., may have been improperly shared by Cambridge Analytica, a political targeting firm. Additionally the public information of many more users may have been scraped by third parties. This was disclosed in an online posting days before the chief executive officer of the social network, Mark Zuckerberg, testifies to U.S. Congress over the failure of Facebook to safeguard information belonging to its users.
While speaking to reporters Zuckerberg acknowledged that as a result of the frayed trust some users of the social network had disengaged or even deleted their accounts.
“It’s clear now we didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools for harm. We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is, and that was a huge mistake,” saidZuckerberg.
Personality profiling app
Last month Facebook revealed that it had been aware that Cambridge Analytica had gotten hold of personal information belonging to users numbering in the hundreds of thousands who had downloaded an app used for personality profiling. According to the social media giant the developer of the app then passed the data of those users as well as their friends to the political targeting firm without the consent or knowledge of the users.
Facebook did not disclose that until it was notified that two news publications were planning to release details of the data breach. This has since then led to the view that Facebook is only transparent about breaches only when forced.
After Facebook indicated that the data breach affected even more users Cambridge Analytica has denied that saying that it only received profiles of 30 million users from the developer of the personality profiling app. Cambridge Analytica has also denied that it used the data during the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
Calls for regulation
The data breach has added to calls for more regulation of tech companies. Already the Federal Trade Commission is undertaking an investigation. Attorney generals from 37 states are also demanding answers from the social media giant. Due to fears of a regulatory backlash the stock of Facebook has lost billions of dollars in value.
Some of the measures Facebook has taken to secure the data of its users include prohibiting markets from using information that has been provided by 3rd-party data brokers. A feature that allowed scraping of users’ data is also being turned off.