What Businesses Should Know About Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica Scandal

 In Digital Marketing, IT Security, Social Media

At Realnets, we take data security – not only for your business, but also its customers – very seriously. Of course, that means staying current on all of the events happening in the fast-paced, chaotic world of digital media. Below, we’ve outlined what we know about the recent Facebook scandal.

If you’re concerned about the way your own company’s social media and advertising is being managed, don’t wait. Contact us for a consultation today.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks, you’ve probably heard of the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica scandal that’s been taking over headlines and pushing privacy concerns to the forefront of conversation.  Of course, the main question on everyone’s mind is, “how does this affect me?” Well, we’ve been keeping up with the story as it continues to come to light and are breaking down the details to keep you in the know. Let’s take a look:

Everything You Need to Know About the Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Facebook is currently facing international investigations into the illicit harvesting of their users’ personal data.  We know that the information was collected by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that backed President Trump’s 2016 election campaign.  Cambridge is now in the midst of a huge media firestorm thanks to an undercover sting operation that caught senior executives bragging about psychological manipulation, entrapment techniques and fake news campaigns targeting Facebook’s users.

As a result, Facebook and the London-based elections consultancy are at the center of an ongoing dispute over the alleged collection and use of users’ personal data, as well as the manipulation of the platform’s advertising algorithms.  Such allegations are obviously of immense concern, as all actions were done without the permission of Facebook’s users’ consent and in direct violation of their privacy.  What’s more is that concern over these allegations are even more heightened because it is believed that the data that was gathered was then used to try to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, as well as the Brexit vote.  In other words, users’ personal information may have been used against them to influence their opinions and actions taken during the elections.

How Did This Scandal Come to Light?

In an undercover operation by Britain’s Channel 4 News, senior executives at Cambridge Analytica, including its CEO Alexander Nix, were caught on camera implying that the firm could use bribes and misinformation (among other things) to try to help political candidates win votes around the world.  Their investigation followed articles published by the New York Times and U.K.’s The Observer. The reports outlined how the data of millions of Facebook users ended up being given to Cambridge Analytica.

It is said that a company called Global Science Research created an app called “This is Your Digital Life” back in 2014 where users were paid to take a psychological test.  The app then, according to reports, collected the data each user provided as well as data on each person’s Facebook friends.

It was from this collection that 50 million Facebook profiles were mined for data and shared with Cambridge Analytica.  From there, the firm was able to build a software solution to help influence choices in the elections. It is believed that the data sold to Cambridge was then used to develop “psychographic” profiles of people and deliver pro-Trump material to them online.

How Has Facebook Responded?

Facebook users have rightfully been outraged by the allegations that have come to light and have been demanding answers from the social media giant.  So far, Facebook has said that while the data was obtained by Cambridge Analytica legitimately, they claim that data scientist Aleksandr Kogan of Cambridge “lied” to the social media platform and violated Facebook’s policies in transferring the data.

Kogan was responsible for the “thisisyourdigitallife” app, which Facebook banned in 2015.  When this happened, they ordered that all parties Kogan had given the resulting data to be destroyed.  However, the surfacing of recent reports and this scandal suggest that the data was never destroyed even though Cambridge Analytica continues to argue that they did in fact delete the information.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since made a public apology, and both parties have vowed to continue to work around the clock to obtain all of the facts and ensure that such a breach never happens again.

Why Should the Cambridge Analytica Scandal Matter to You?

This is a hugely significant ordeal because of the way the collected data might have been used.  It has allegedly been used to direct messages of influence for political campaigns specifically supported by Cambridge Analytica, most notably for Trump’s campaign victory and the Brexit vote.  

Of course, the role of marketing on behalf of Cambridge Analytica and its overall reach has yet to be determined.  They deny the allegations, but this will be an on-going saga and is an open investigation, as U.S. senators have since urged Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to testify before congress.  They, and the public, want to know how the social media giant plans to protect its users from a catastrophe like this from ever happening again.

The seriousness of these violations is a stark reminder to us all that security is of the utmost importance when it comes to our users’ online presence.  Contact us today if you have any reason to be concerned about your company’s online presence. 

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