Facebook tightens data security only to find out 87 million users’ data harvested, Cambridge Analytica denies charge

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New Delhi | Published: April 5, 2018 12:50:49 PM

Mike Schroepfer, Chief Technology Officer, Facebook, in a blog post announced major changes to the company’s data access policies, alongside informing the public that the Facebook information of up to 87 million people may have been shared ‘improperly’ by Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook has made a massive revelation over the data misuse of its users

Facebook on Wednesday publicly announced that as many as 87 million Facebook users may have been impacted by the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal, who were mainly US residents. This contradicts the previously reported 50 million users by a large margin, raising questions over the internal inquiry process of Facebook. Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica has refuted the claims made by Facebook and said that it had access to the ‘licensed’ data of only 30 million people. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal took a sharp hit after a few days of calm that allowed both the firms to assess their policies.

Mike Schroepfer, Chief Technology Officer, Facebook, in a blog post announced major changes to the company’s data access policies, alongside informing the public that the Facebook information of up to 87 million people may have been shared ‘improperly’ by Cambridge Analytica. “In total, we believe the Facebook information of up to 87 million people — mostly in the US — may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica,” he noted in the post.

On the contrary, Cambridge Analytica has said that it had a licence to use the data of not more than 30 million users that a research firm Global Science Research, or GSR, used illicitly. “Cambridge Analytica licensed data for no more than 30 million people from GSR, as is clearly stated in our contract with the research company. We did not receive more data than this,” said Cambridge Analytica. The firm further added that when Facebook contacted them over the improper harvesting of data, it ‘immediately’ scraped raw data from the file server, in addition to locating and removing any instances or derivatives in the system.

Further, Schroepfer also said that starting April 9, Facebook users will see a link on the top of their News Feed that will enable them to see the apps they use and what information these apps gain from your profile – including the data harvested by Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook has also outlined several other measures that will be effective on all the Facebook platforms including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. For the first time ever, Facebook is also admitting that it shares data with Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp platforms indirectly in the same post. Earlier, Facebook never mentioned its platforms in the terms of service until now when the company explicitly wrote down the names of other companies it owns – are bound by the new terms of service. This comes as obvious to everyone who knows that all the three platforms – Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp – are owned by Facebook, however, the social media giant has never been much clear about the data sharing policies for each platform – sending many regulators worldwide into a tizzy.

While Facebook is claiming to tighten the data access rules on its platform and associated third-party websites and apps, a lot of hidden insight has been thrown into how Facebook shares users’ data with the advertisers. Facebook explained in the blog post how it uses your name, profile picture, and actions on Facebook, as well as, previous interactions with ads. This information can be used to show your friends about an event that you’re interested in or a brand you liked after seeing it on Facebook as a part of the paid promotion. This shows how companies pay Facebook to show its users the relevant brands and products meanwhile mapping their interests with the help of algorithms.

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