Facebook has been engulfed in a legal battle as a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The scandal emanated from the time Facebook allowed Aleksandr Kogan to integrate his personality quiz app with the social media platform.
It all started in 2013 when Facebook, in a bid to open its platform and offer users a more exciting experience, allowed 3rd-party app developers to integrate their apps with Facebook’s architecture. This new access to personal details of Facebook users led to Aleksandr Kogan integrating his personality quiz app with the Facebook app.
This event would later come back to hunt Facebook as it seemed Kogan had other motives than just predicting human behavior through social media.
Realizing the potential risk that giving 3rd-party app developers access to confidential information without providing consent came with, Facebook announced that same year that they were changing the entire platform to drastically limit the way apps could access user data. What this meant was that apps like Kogan’s app could no longer ask for data about a user’s friends unless those friends also authorized the app.
It wasn’t until 2015 that it was uncovered by a journalist at the Guardian UK that Kogan had shared personal details of over 80 million Facebook users with Cambridge Analytica through his app. This is an outright breach of Facebook’s policies as developers aren’t allowed to share data without people’s consent. This led to a ban of Kogan’s app from Facebook. Facebook demanded that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica formally certify that they had deleted all improperly acquired data. Although they provided these certifications, it turned out that the data was never deleted, and Facebook never bothered to investigate.
All of this might have been swept under the radar but for the unexpected victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in America’s 2015 election. Following the disappointing American election of 2016, Americans have been searching for answers to understand how and why Trump won the election; from claims that Russia interfered in the elections to claims that Trump’s campaign team might have colluded with Russian government officials.
It is this search for answers that has landed Facebook in hot waters. The social media company has found itself in a legal battle for breach of contract and trust as it was found out that Cambridge might have used data obtained Kogan personality quiz app to help influence the outcome of the US election which brought Trump to power.
Facebook has been grilled by the American Congress and while it denies any wrongdoings, they have placed the blame squarely on Cambridge Analytica for misusing the data received through Kogan’s App. Cambridge Analytica has unleashed a counterattack against such claims that it misused the Facebook data, stating that they are a victim of misunderstanding and inaccurate reporting. Kogan himself also claims that Facebook has realized, “It was convenient to point the finger at a single entity”, when in fact the social media giant knew that its data was being misused on such a grand scale.
This mess has led to a lot of people questioning the ability of Facebook to protect their data, thereby leading to a Delete Facebook campaign. Notable names like Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, and Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur, were reported to have deleted their personal and company Facebook pages respectively (no jokes).
In the aftermath of this scandal, Facebook has taken steps to stop 3rd-party data for targeting by disabling ‘Partner Categories’, a form of advertising targeting which allowed prominent third-party data aggregators like Experian and Acxiom to provide clients with offline data like purchasing activity to inform ad targeting. They also plan to introduce an Un-send Message feature for Facebook Messenger after people realized Facebook was deleting Zuckerberg’s messages.
Taking their actions further, Facebook has finally banned Cambridge Analytica and Trump’s campaign operations team from using Facebook.
The waters have been quite muddy for Facebook since this scandal broke out and it appears they are making genuine efforts to ensure that they regain public trust.
However, you can’t help but wonder if this is too little, too late, and if we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the era of the biggest social media platform that is Facebook.