The recent Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal has shocked Facebook users around the world. Reports of personal data being collected and manipulated for political purposes are a massive breach of privacy. During the reports, the company have been accused of collecting the data of over 50 million profiles without their permission.
This information was then used in the 2016 election to target US voters with personalised political adverts based on their psychological profiles. Cambridge Analytica have also been accused of targeting voters with adverts during the Brexit referendum, and have admitted to receiving £625,000 from a pro-brexit campaign group. There are now fears that employees of the company have used fake news to influence elections around the world using information harvested from Facebook profiles.
In a statement, the company said: “We have never passed any data from GSR [Global Science Research] to an external party. After Facebook contacted us in December 2015 we deleted all GSR data and took appropriate steps to ensure that any copies of the data were deleted. This includes our lawyers taking action in late 2014 against a number of former staff members who had stolen data and intellectual property from the company. These former staff members each signed an undertaking promising that they had deleted all such material. It is untrue that we failed to take appropriate measures to ensure that GSR data were deleted.”
Although these adverts have been taken down, and users in the US and UK have received apologies from Facebook, former managers for the social media company have warned that private companies could be holding the data of of hundreds of millions of users around the world. So, how will this affect its users trust in the site going forward?
There are fears that not only could this information be used for political purposes in the future, it could also be making users of the site more vulnerable to fraud and other crimes. Companies are warning that, by individuals leaving their profiles on public or sharing their information, they are putting themselves at risk of hackers accessing their information. During this scandal, the data the Cambridge Analytica collected was exploited in elections.
If personal information could be used in this way, there’s a real danger that it could be exploited by criminals too. For example, the home security firm ADT have warned that an increasing number of burglars are using Facebook or Twitter when choosing targets. Users sometimes have their home addresses on their profiles, and often post pictures of their valuables or post when they will be on holiday or out of the house. Another way users are targeted is by apps asking for their phone numbers, which is then used to contact premium rate phone numbers and the users expense.
With this in mind, social media users have been urged to be vigilant with their personal data and what they choose to share online. People need to check their privacy settings along with the terms and conditions. Going forward, the public needs to be aware of how their data might be used and who it could be shared with.