Personal information of more than 50 million users of social media giant was 'misused' by customer

Synopsis

In March 2018, it was disclosed that over 50 million Facebook users had their personal information compromised by a third party, Global Science Research, who had legitimate access to the data for academic purposes but passed the data on to another third party, Cambridge Analytica, who (allegedly) used it for a completely different purpose: The Facebook data was acquired through a personality quiz app called thisismydigitallife which requested access to Facebook user's profiles of the c. 320,000 people who took the quiz and their friends (at least 160 each).

In 2015 Facebook discovered another company, Cambridge Analytica, had been passed their data and Facebook responded by suspending Cambridge Analytica/SCL from advertising on the social network.

Facebook's incident response initially focused a great deal on whether the term "data breach" was accurate in the content of the event with Facebook's VP and deputy general counsel stating it is "completely false" to call the event a data breach "Aleksandr Kogan requested and gained access to information from users who chose to sign up to his app, and everyone involved gave their consent. People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked."

Facebook says it isn’t at fault. Data-harvesting has been a privacy concern for nearly a decade. Facebook’s user data is a powerful tool for marketing and research but this event begs the question, what responsibility does the social network have to its customers when an app maker allegedly breaks its terms and then lies about it?

Lawmakers in the United States and Britain are calling on Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to explain what happened. Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating.

Analysis performed by

Courtenay Brammar

Experienced global enterprise risk and governance professional. Previously Vice President at Morgan Stanley, Deloitte Risk Advisory practitioner and PRMIA steering committee member in both London and New York.

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Companies

  • Cambridge Analytica
  • Facebook, Inc.

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