Unless you’ve been off the grid for the past few weeks (and God bless you if you’ve been that fortunate), you’ve likely seen it in the news, heard it at the coffee shop, maybe even read about it on Facebook. The world’s biggest social media network is under fire for “improperly sharing” users’ personal information, which many believe was then used to influence election results.
For five hours on Tuesday, the Facebook CEO and founder (Mark Zuckerberg) was questioned by members of Congress on its role in allowing Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based political data firm that worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, to improperly access data on 87 million people. On Wednesday, he faced an even harsher crowd on Capitol Hill as members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee probed Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook’s legal obligations and guiding principles as the owner of the worlds largest social network.
As Zuckerberg’s grilling session on Capitol Hill came to a close on Wednesday afternoon, many of our clients still have questions about what the data scandal means and how we recommend they proceed, hence this article. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received.
How can I check if my data was compromised by Cambridge Analytica?
Users can see if their information was shared with Cambridge Analytica by clicking this dedicated link. Note that you’ll want to be logged into Facebook before you click the link for accurate results.
Below are some screenshots of what you can expect after clicking on that link.
What sparked this scandal?
Back in 2013, Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University researcher, developed and launched a personality quiz on Facebook. Approximately 300,000 users signed up for it, thus agreeing to give Kogan access to their personal information, which was all perfectly legal. It wasn’t until Kogan harvested information from users’ entire network of friends without their permission that this became extremely illegal and unethical. This tactic allowed Kogan to see personal details from approximately 87 million Facebook users.
If I was affected, what should I do?
In short, there’s not much you can do at this point, unfortunately. Even if you delete your Facebook account, or remove third-party apps connected to your profile (as Facebook recommends), the third-party apps will still have access to data they previously collected. Users have to contact the app individually to have the data be removed. To see your data profile, go to Settings > General > Download a copy of your Facebook data.
When did Facebook find out about this violation?
According to Facebook, they learned of the data violation in 2015 and asked Cambridge Analytica to delete the data at the time. They have since been suspended from Facebook.
Does Facebook sell my data to advertisers?
According to Zuckerberg, no. “We do not sell data to advertisers,” Zuckerberg said during Tuesday’s hearing. Facebook does use information people provide (age, gender, interests, etc.) to targe ads to specific audiences. If you’ve ever advertised on Facebook, you’d know that in doing so, you are able to tell Facebook which demographics you’d like to target and the social media network places your ads on related accounts.