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privacy rights blog

Staying Up to Date


What is Going on With Facebook?

We have been following the recent events that have been taking place with Facebook as it relates to data sharing and users' privacy.   It has been reported that a firm called Cambridge Analytica gained access to the private information of more than 80 million Facebook users.  The data that was collected was users' identities, their friends networks and their "likes".  This type of information is used to target audiences with digital ads based on what people had "liked".  Facebook has said that it routinely allows researchers to have access to user data for academic purposes and that users do consent to this access when they create a Facebook account.  

Cambridge Analytica, a UK based firm, acquired 80+ million Facebook users personal information in order to provide the ability to target audiences.  The method Cambridge Analytica used to gather the data was through an app called "thisisyourdigitallife" which Cambridge Analytica paid over $800,000.00 for.  About 270,000 users agreed to have their data collected for research purposes in exchange for a small payment.  It turns out that the app not only collected the users data but also collected the data of the users' unknowing friends.  All the data was provided to Cambridge Analytica which was used to create profiles that could then be used to design targeted political ads.

This set off a string of allegations and events, including Mark Zuckerberg being asked to answer questions in US Congress.  A general problem is that the leak could be seen as just one example of a broader pattern of lax handling of confidential user data.