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After Massive Indonesian Facebook Data Breach, Facebook to Testify Tuesday Before Indonesian Parliament

Chairman of Commission I of the Indonesian House of Representatives Abdul Kharis Almasyhari, who is overseeing defense and foreign affairs, said that the head of Facebook’s Southeast Asia division will address parliament this week in the case of the data breach that affected 1 million Facebook users in Indonesia.

Facebook Indonesia was supposed to testify before the parliament on April 11; however, the company did not attend the hearing, stating that the head of Facebook Southeast Asia was still in the U.S.

Facebook Southeast Asia is still waiting for a decision from the company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is currently testifying before U.S. Congress.

“Facebook Indonesia was set to present their Southeast Asian high ranking official. However, the official had to accompany other Facebook officials at the United States congressional hearing,” said Abdul Kharis on Wednesday.

The hearing with the Indonesian parliament is rescheduled for April 17.

Facebook previously said in its official statement that data of 87 million users worldwide had been improperly shared to the data company Cambridge Analytica, which contributed to the unexpected victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

Out of the 87 million accounts, around 70 million of them belong to U.S. citizens.

Will Indonesia ban Facebook?

A lot of Indonesians are urging the government to take strict action against the world’s most popular social platform. Indonesian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Rudiantara is facing a vital question: Is Indonesia brave enough to block Facebook in the country?

Rudiantara sent two warning letters to Facebook, but there are currently no signs that the ban will follow through. He denied criticism that Indonesia is being too lenient on the tech giant’s mistakes, citing that the country has been the “bravest” in Southeast Asia by tackling the spread of inappropriate content online.

In March, Indonesia blocked micro-blog Tumblr after receiving complaints that the site contained pornographic contents.

The minister said that his office will likely ban Facebook if there is a shred of evidence that the company plays a role in spreading fake news and hate speech that can incite violent conflicts. In Myanmar, six civil organizations denounced Facebook for spreading hate speech propaganda that said Muslims would attack Buddhists in September 2017. Other content also warned Muslims to prepare for a Buddhist militant assault.

In regards to data leakage, Rudiantara stated that his office would have to wait for the upcoming audit from the parent company before taking action.

In the first two warning letters sent to Facebook, the ministry demanded that the social platform block third-party apps such as quizzes created by Cambridge Analytica that could potentially invade user privacy.

In response to the minister’s request, Facebook Indonesia’s Public Policy Lead Ruben Hattari stated that Facebook Indonesia would communicate the matter with the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

On Monday, Rudiantara said he had additional reports that Indonesian Facebook users’ data had been shared not only to Cambridge Analytica, but also to a similar app called CubeYou. The minister has yet to confirm the amount of data leaked as well as the number of accounts harvested by CubeYou.

Indonesians are urging parliament to pass a law on private data protection.

“The country’s data protection law is still processing, as it still needs coordination with other related ministries,” said Donny Budi Utoyo of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.

Data breach for the 2019 presidential election?

According to Indonesian digital marketing expert Anthony Leong, the data leakage affecting the 1 million Facebook users in Indonesia indicates that the company needs to set up a server to guarantee data protection for their users.

Leong suspects that Cambridge Analytica may intend to influence users’ political choices ahead of the 2019 presidential election, similar to what the company did in 2016 that helped Trump to win the U.S. election.

According to a report by The South China Morning Post (SCMP) last Thursday,  Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm, Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL Group), also helped Rodrigo Duterte to win the 2016 Philippines presidential election by boosting his image as a crime fighter. Malacañang Palace denied any such interference.


Biased Technology and Policing in the Age of Big Data

Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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