The Facebook scandal, but sorted

According to the original report, Facebook has released personal data to more than 50 million users, which is the largest data leak to date. Cambridge Analytica has gained access to the personal details of more than 50 million Facebook users, which could serve to influence the results of presidential troops in favour of Donald Trump. In response to data leaks, Tesla and SpaceX have erased their Facebook profiles. However, most of the information about this scandal is incomplete and the following facts need to be taken into account.

Firstly, there was no data leakage but data was propogated by a feature of certain Facebook applications. Five years ago, a Russian-American scientist, Aleksandr Kogan, was invited to Facebook with the idea of collecting user data through an application called “thisisyourdigitalliefe”. Approximately 270,000 users logged in to the psychotest. They gave informed consent to process their personal data, such as “permanent residence” or “layout”. This confirmation window is known to most people using social media, it is shown when playing “Candy Crush” or when you log in through Facebook to services such as Spotify or Tinder. However, the issue of the “thisisyourdigitallife” application was that it evaluated data not only of the 270,000 subscribers but also of their friends who did not give their consent to access their data. At the end, the app had access to nearly 50 million profiles. This was because it was a common practice for app developers at that time to have access to the data of their application users’ friends who gave their consent to access their data. But then, every Facebook user had the settings available to disable the sharing of obscene data through their friends’ apps. This feature was canceled in 2015. However, many applications have downloaded data for millions of users without their knowledge, so they can still share similar issues to Cambridge Analytica.

Secondly, Facebook does not sell personal information to its users. The sale of personal data can be blamed on Dr. Kogan, who made it available to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook knew about this in 2015, and subsequently asked Dr.Kogan and Cambridge Analytica to make a written statement that all the data would be erased, but that was not the case.

Thirdly, there is no direct evidence that Cambridge Analytica really affected the outcome of the presidential election.

Fourth, Tesla and SpaceX probably did not completely erase their social media pages. Co-founder of Whatsappu Brian Acton called for a Twitter and Facebook boycott, to which the controversial entrepreneur Elon Musk, the head of Tesla and Space X, responded immediately. In fact, the facebook profiles of these companies may only be temporarily suspended with the ability to re-activate them at any time. This version is quite likely, as both sites had more than 2.5 million users, and Musk may have simply used the whole sensation to build their own PR.

Fifth, Facebook did not respond quickly enough. The additional implementation of personal privacy tools is no response to this scandal, as the introduction of these tools was planned long before the scandal broke out. Also, the ability of users to download personal information that is stored on Facebook is protection ordered by law. If Facebook is interested in regaining its users’ confidence, more effective action is needed.

The information is prepared by the team of the COMPACT project.

COMPACT is a Coordination and Support Action funded European Commission under framework Horizon 2020.

The objective of the COMPACT project is to increase awareness (including scientific, political, cultural, legal, economic and technical areas) of the latest technological discoveries among key stakeholders in the context of social media and convergence. The project will offer analyses and road maps of related initiatives. In addition, extensive research on policies and regulatory frameworks in media and content will be developed.

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