Facebook is facing some serious questions from users and governments after reports of data leak by a UK-based firm Cambridge Analytica have come to light. It has been revealed that the data leak, which was actually first reported in 2015, allowed the political firm to harvest data of 50 million user profiles and this was then used to create more effective election campaigns for the Trump and the Pro-Brexit group.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has come out to admit that the company made a mistake in how this issue was handled and has also announced a series of steps for the same. So what exactly has happened in the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal? Here’s a look at all the key events till now.
2013: The quiz ‘ThisisyourDigitalLife’ is created
A Cambridge University professor Aleksandr Kogan created an app called ‘ThisisyourDigitalLife’ which was a personality quiz in the year 2013. The app was used by over 300,000 users on Facebook, but Kogan also managed to access the profile data of other Facebook users, who were friends of those who had used the app. This resulted in Kogan getting data of millions of users.
2014: Facebook changes rules for apps on data sharing
Facebook in 2014 limited developer access to user data. It changed the rules to say that a developer could not access a user’s friends’ data unless the friend also gave permission for the same. However, Kogan did not delete the data he had acquired from his app.
December 2015: Guardian reports on user data being used Cambridge Analytica
The first time this story of data leaks came out was in December 2015, when the Guardian reported that the firm Cambridge Analytica was helping Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in the US with the user profiles obtained from Facebook via the app. Facebook says when they learned about the data leaks they had banned Kogan’s app and asked both Cambridge Analytica and Kogan to delete all the data that was improperly acquired. Facebook claims the parties certified that the data had been deleted.
March 2018: The Observer and New York Times break story on Cambridge Analytica-Facebook data leaks
On March 17 and March 18, 2018, New York Times and Observer in the UK reported how 50 million profiles of users were harvested to help Trump’s Presidential campaign and Pro-Brexit. Whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed how data of over 50 million users was gained from the app that Kogan had designed back in 2013 and then used to profile, target voters.
Wylie revealed that the company successfully ‘exploited Facebook’ to target and mislead users. He has also alleged that Cambridge Analytica planted fake news. Facebook then announced it was suspending Cambridge Analytica from their platform along with its parent group Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) over the data leaks.
March 19, 2018: Facebook announces independent audit for Cambridge Analytica
On March 19, 2018, Facebook announced it had brought in independent auditors to examine the Cambridge Analytica claims. However, the auditors had to back down after the UK Information Commissioner’s Office said it had a warrant to pursue their own investigation.
March 20, 2018: UK Parliamentary Committee wants Zuckerberg to testify
Once news reports broke about Facebook data leaks and how it was misused to manipulate elections, governments in both UK, US governments started asking tough questions. On March 20, it was reported that UK’s parliamentary committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sports asked Mark Zuckerberg to testify before them. The Committee said it was not satisfied with the answers given by Facebook officials and a ‘senior Facebook executive’ needed to testify.
March 21, 2018: Mark Zuckerberg pens long note, promises fix
On March 21, Mark Zuckerberg finally broke his silence on the Cambridge Analytica stories and said that the company had failed its users. He admitted that users trust Facebook with their data and if they could not protect, then they don’t deserve the users. He announced a series of steps to fix the problem, including audit of all apps which had access to large amounts of users information. In an interview with CNN, he also agreed to testify in front of the US Congress.
Interestingly, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton also joined the call for #DeleteFacebook and tweeted to users it was time to delete the app.
In India, the Union minister, RS Prasad also warned that any attempts by Facebook to undermine electoral process in in the country by undesirable means will not be tolerated. He also
March 23, 2018: US House Committee wants Zuckerberg to testify
According to Associated Press, the leaders of a key US House committee said they want CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before the panel. The statement said that the “latest revelations regarding Facebook’s use and security of user data raise many serious consumer protection concerns.”