50 Million Facebook Users Data Stole for Political Advertising. Facebook has suspended a data company for misusing millions of user data. The company would have played an essential role in the US presidential elections and the Brexit.
Facebook suspends the company Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) and its political branch Cambridge Analytica. Based on Facebook data, the company compiled much more accurate user profiles and kept them for much longer than allowed.
According to whistleblowers, Cambridge Analytica has copied the user data of more than 50 million Facebook profiles without their permission and knowledge. That is one of the biggest data leaks in the history of Facebook. Thanks to the stolen data, users could later be addressed with advertisements on an individual level and personally.
“We have misused Facebook to read millions of profiles, which we used to address the deepest feelings of people,” says former Cambridge employee Christopher Wylie to The Guardian and The New York Times. “That is the basis on which the entire company is built.”
Facebook would have already detected the unauthorized data collection by the end of 2015. However, that was not brought out at the time, and millions of users were not informed that their information had been collected.
The New York Times states that Facebook was trying to downplay the scope of the leak during talks with the newspaper. Also, Facebook would have threatened with a lawsuit, because the allegations according to the company would be ‘false and libelous.’
Trump and Brexit
SCL and Cambridge worked together with the campaign team of US President Donald Trump during presidential elections in the US in 2016, reports The Verge. Thanks for the data, Trump could have reached more voters via Facebook than his rival Hillary Clinton.
Cambridge Analytica received a million investment in 2014 from a large Republican donor and billionaire Robert Mercer. On the board of Cambridge Analytica was Steve Bannon, later campaign leader of the Trump presidential campaign.
The company was also involved in the campaign of British political party UKIP of Nigel Farage, who successfully campaigned for a British withdrawal from the EU. The British government has started an investigation into SCL and Cambridge.
This is Unacceptable
Facebook says it can not determine whether and how the unlawfully obtained data was used during election campaigns. It is clear, however, that SCL obtained the data via its own app, developed by a researcher who said he needed the information for ‘academic purposes.’
According to Facebook, at least 270,000 people have downloaded the app and given access to their Facebook profile, including information about their place of residence, friends, and likes. According to the whistleblowers, however, the number of affected users is considerably higher.
The collected information was unlawfully transferred to external data company Eunoia Technologies. When Facebook found out, they were asked to delete the information. The companies promised to do that, but Facebook found out that that has not happened yet.
“A few days ago, we received reports that, contrary to the promises, not all data was removed, if that is true, it is an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments made,” said Facebook.
The companies SLC, Cambridge Analytica and two people involved have been suspended by Facebook until there is more clarity.