Ex-Director of Cambridge Analytica: Facebook Scandal May Affect More Than 87 Million Users
Facebook is under criticism following the data breach that affected 87 million users worldwide during the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That number is much higher than the tens of thousands that Cambridge Analytica originally admitted to collecting data from. The new estimate of 87 million or more users comes from former Director of Program Development at Cambridge Analytica, Brittany Kaiser. She gave the estimate in a hearing with the U.K. parliament Wednesday.
The data scandal involving Cambridge Analytica and the world’s most famous social network erupted after a whistleblower disclosed that Cambridge Analytica had harvested users’ personal information from Facebook’s database allegedly in order to help Donald Trump win the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
Kaiser explained that Cambridge Analytica had various “quizzes” to acquire users’ data, including a personality quiz called “This Is Your Digital Life” created by Aleksandr Kogan, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge. Whether Cambridge Analytica acquired the data with full consent is a central issue to the data breach.
Other quiz apps that unlawfully harvested Facebook users’ private information were “Sex Compass” and “Your Music Personality.”
Former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix was supposed to attend the hearing with the U.K. Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport on Wednesday. However, the department’s chairman Damian Collins stated that Nix could not attend.
A statement said that Nix could not appear because of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Office of the Information Commissioner.
Cambridge Analytica: Who they are and what they do
Cambridge Analytica is a London-based political consulting firm established in 2013. The company is affiliated with Strategic Communications Laboratories Group (SCL Group), a contractor that handles government and military projects such as security research and drug crime operation.
Cambridge Analytica gained notoriety following reports from the Observer and the New York Times that the company had gathered data on 87 million Facebook users, approximately 50 million of those users being American. The data was allegedly used to set up software that could target swing-voters during political campaigns, aimed at influencing undecided voters to vote for a certain candidate.
The firm was also accused of playing a role in a 2016 U.K. referendum that pushed the U.K. to leave the European Union (EU). Cambridge Analytica was said to have cooperated with Leave.Eu, a pro-Brexit campaign set up by British businessman and politician Arron Banks.
Facebook’s lost credibility
The data leakage scandal has shaken the world and sparked anger from Facebook users worldwide. Facebook’s share plunged sharply by 6.8 percent on March 19, wiping the tech giant’s market value by almost $40 billion.
Users’ trust in the platform is waning following the privacy leakage. A survey by the Ponemon Institute shows that Facebook users’ confidence in the firm has dropped by 66 percent following Cambridge Analytica’s inappropriate data collection, with a pool of approximately 3,000 survey participants. Despite Zuckerberg’s convincing appearance in the two-day hearing with Congress, only 28 percent of Facebook users still put their trust in the social network, a 79 percent drop from last year’s survey.
The institute’s chairman, Larry Ponemon, says that the survey result indicates users’ rising concerns about their privacy.
“We found that people care deeply about their privacy and when there is a mega data breach as in the case of Facebook, people will express their concern. And some people will actually vote with their feet and leave,” he stated.
Facebook suspended partnerships with similar data firms such as CubeYou and AggregateIQ after CNBC found that those firms use the same methods as Cambridge Analytica.
In a blog post, Facebook argued that other tech titans such as Twitter, Amazon, Google, and Apple harvest their users’ data. Following, Kaiser urged users to reform Facebook, not delete it.