News Canada
  • Facebook
    Facebook
  • Twitter
    Twitter
  • Pinterest
    Pinterest
  • +
  • Linkedin
    Linkedin
  • WhatsApp
    WhatsApp
  • Email
    Email
SHARE THIS
  • Facebook
    Facebook
  • Twitter
    Twitter
  • Pinterest
    Pinterest
  • Linkedin
    Linkedin
  • WhatsApp
    WhatsApp
  • Email
    Email

Hours before a joint investigation by the New York Times and U.K. newspaper The Observer was made public by the organizations Friday, Facebook suspended a data firm related to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign from their services for violating users’ privacy rights. Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan had passed Facebook user data acquired through a personality quiz app onto third-parties including the aforementioned data firm, Cambridge Analytica.

According to a lengthy statement by Facebook CEO Paul Grewal, the company learned of the breach in security back in 2015, but failed to make it public or alert users. At the time, Facebook demanded that the involved parties delete the compromised data and were, in return, assured it was done. It was just recently, as per the statement, that Facebook became aware that the data was not actually destroyed.

The New York Times and Observer investigation was aided primarily by Canadian whistle-blower Christopher Wylie, who worked for Cambridge Analytica and was privileged with the information. The investigation found that data from more than 50 million Facebook users was harvested without permission in a voter-profiling effort. The claim is that the firm used this information and worked with the Trump campaign to establish techniques for turning voters.

Most members of the Trump camp called out in the reporting deny the connection to Cambridge and any knowledge of the data mining operation; however, on Tuesday, undercover video of CEO Alexander Nix discussing potential bribery and entrapment went public. In the footage, Nix claims he met Trump “many times” and that the firm did “all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting.” He added, “We ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy.” He also says that he believes the U.S. government has “no jurisdiction” over their unsanctioned use of data.

Cambridge’s chief data officer, Alex Tayler, was recorded separately saying that the research and actions of the company were responsible for Trump’s Electoral College victory.

“When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes, but won the Electoral College, that’s down to the data and the research,” he said, “That’s how he won the election.”

Wednesday, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence on the scandal to say that his company “made mistakes” with regards to Cambridge Analytica and outline what Facebook would be doing (and what they have apparently already done) to fix their own vulnerabilities. Zuckerberg says that in 2014, the platform made it more difficult for third-party applications like Kogan’s to access user information but they will create additional protections for users by further limiting apps’ access, investigating thousands of applications connected to the website and making clearer which apps use what information.

He finished by claiming responsibility for the breach in trust and failing to protect user information. He assured Facebook users that the platform will “work through this and build a better service over the long term.”

While Zuckerberg’s statements seem hopeful and comforting, the ways that foreign entities were able to hijack online information to the extent that it influenced a democratic election in a country as secure as the United States is cause for worldwide concern. The data crisis is far from over for both the company and future elections the world over.