Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Breach 2018

By Eshita Paul                                                                                                                             Image: Thomas White/Reuters

Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Breach 2018

The ongoing scandal following the Cambridge Analytica firm that gathers personal data from millions of Facebook without user consent has recently been making headlines. Last month users launched a campaign to delete Facebook with the official hashtag “#DeleteFacebook”, and it gained further momentum after the WhatsApp co-founder advised everyone to delete the popular social networking application.

Initial reports, by the New York Times, estimated that more than 50 million users had their private information gathered by the political data firm. But now Facebook has confirmed that up to 87 million people may have been affected by this incident. According to Facebook, users in the United States have been most affected by the entire Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal. It has been reported that over 70,632,350 user data from the United States have been affected, followed by Philippines with 1,175870, Indonesia with 1,096,666, UK with 1,079,031, and Mexico, Canada, India, Brazil, Vietnam and Australia follow the list.

What is Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica is an American data mining and communication firm. It is an offshoot of the British Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) and was founded in 2013 with a focus on impacting elections in the United States. The firm offers its services to political campaigns by analyzing data from multiple sources on electoral behavior. Initially, in 2015 it was used by Republican candidate Ted Cruz for his campaign in the United States Presidential Election. Cambridge Analytica is also reported to have played a part in Donald Trump’s successful election campaign in 2016.

How to find out if Cambridge Analytica had access to your data

Facebook has started notifying up to 87 million people that their information was improperly obtained by Cambridge Analytica, but not everyone has received the notification yet.

If one hasn’t seen the prompt in the News Feed, there’s a simple way to check your account:

  • Facebook’s help center now has a section that tells whether you were affected. 
  • Affected users will be prompted to change app settings.
  • Most users will see a message that specifies whether you or your friends logged into ‘This Is Your Digital Life’, the personality quiz that Cambridge Analytica used to gather its data.
  • Facebook has promised widespread changes to its platform to prevent further abuse. According to the company, these actions would prevent any app (such as ‘This Is Your Digital Life’ quiz) from being able to access so much data.

Companies should restrict Facebook data sharing

Despite several steps announced by Facebook to improve user privacy, the social networking firm has pointed out that information in a user’s public profile is always available, and this includes personal data such as name, gender, username, profile picture, cover photo, age, language and country. Security advisers have warned that businesses that use Facebook and have employees who use the social media platform extensively should be aware that the data is easily accessible to potential cyber attackers.

Security researchers have suggested few steps based on the level of privacy:

  • Limit what you share on Facebook, like not to share the check-in location feature once in your home.
  • Make your profile private.
  • Limit the applications you give access to. When signing up for a new service, ‘Join with Facebook’ prompt provides easy access. However, this can provide the creator of the website to have easy access to your profile.
  • Monitor the applications that have access to your profile currently. Even though the applications could have harvested all information from your profile, it is advisable to go through the list regularly and make sure to keep it clean.
  • While surfing the net, be aware that every other service on the Internet has similar collection mechanisms about your private data. What you search for on Google, the YouTube videos you watch, your search and buy history on e-commerce platforms and your browsing pattern, all the information can be stored, analysed and used to profile you.

The Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal is an eye-opener that exposes the vulnerabilities associated with use of social media platforms. A recent survey of 350 Information Technology decision makers showed that the incident has highlighted issues associated with data privacy, sharing and security. Going forward, stricter measures will need to be enforced for ensuring total data protection and safety of the corporate network.


About the Author

Eshita Paul is an Analyst with the Information Services Team of Mitkat Advisory Services. 

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions represented in this blog are of the author and do not represent those of MitKat. Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual.

Published On - Apr 18,2018


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