In March 2018, it was disclosed that over 50 million users of the social media company had their personal information compromised by a third party, Global Science Research, who had legitimate access to the data for academic purposes but they passed the data on to a separate third party, Cambridge Analytica, who (allegedly) used it for a completely different purpose.
The company's incident response initially focused a great deal on whether the term "data breach" was accurate in the content of the event.
Facebook's VP and deputy general counsel stating it is "completely false" to call the event a data breach stating "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".
Later Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer said: “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.
In October 2018, UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) fined them for the breach of user data. In October 2019, Turkey's Personal Data Protection Board also fined them for violating data protection laws which affected nearly 300,000 Turkish people.
In August 2022, it was reported that the company had reached a tentative USD 37.5 million preliminary settlement for a lawsuit related to this incident.
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