It’s been just over a month since a serious data scandal involving Facebook was exposed in an article in The Guardian. The article implied personal data had been improperly obtained and used for targeting political advertising in the latest U.S presidential campaign. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a new tactic, the incriminating aspect in this case is that users were unwittingly having their data extracted and sold without their proper consent. Even though everybody knows to some degree that their Google searches and Facebook preferences are used to target advertising, now is the time to seriously consider your digital footprint and prioritise the privacy of your online presence.
What actually happened
Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, was the company responsible for harvesting personal information from over 50 million Facebook profiles. The information was collected through a Facebook app called “This is Your Digital Life”, a personality quiz developed by a Cambridge professor Dr Aleksander Kogan. Over 270,000 Facebook users used the app, which subsequently extracted their personal data.
Having personal data secretly harvested is unsettling enough as it is, however, more details emerged after a Christopher Wylie, a whistle blower who worked for Cambridge Analytica revealed that the app not only had access to the users personal information but also everyone on their ‘friends’ list. Furthermore, it was revealed that as well as having access to basic data and likes, the app also had access to some private messages.
In short, this app was gleaning Facebook users basic information and likes to better understand their personality and subsequently construct and target political advertising through psychographic profiling
Facebook becomes partly responsible because at the time its API (Application Programming Interface) allowed developers access to users and their friends personal information. Although Facebook reached out to Cambridge Analytica to request that they delete the data they had obtained, it is reported that they never followed up on the request.
There are a couple of important lessons to take away from this. The first is that Facebook made it too easy for developers to obtain sensitive and personal data, consequently forcing users to become distrustful of the social media giant. The second is that your data can be easily compromised by websites that seem trustworthy.
Protecting your business’ data is equally important as protecting your own personal data, this is where Milnsbridge Managed IT Services can help. Milnsbridge specialises in security for businesses. Contact a solutions expert today on 1300 300 293