/Unfriending Facebook : The Cambridge Analytica row !!!

Unfriending Facebook : The Cambridge Analytica row !!!

A former Cambridge Analytica employee has revealed details of how the company harvested Facebook profiles to benefit political parties. Credit: Obama White House Archives
Credit: Obama White House Archives

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been issued summons by the US Congress, UK Parliament and European Parliament. This comes after the social media giant has been hurled with allegations of data breach of as many as 50 billion individuals across the world. Indian Information Technology and Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also warned Zuckerberg of serious consequences if the investigations reveal abuse of data of Indian citizens.

Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy firm specialising in data, analytics and strategy, obtained information of 2,70,000 Facebook users through an online personality test. The test conducted by personality profiling app called thisisyourdigitallife, then pulled data of Facebook friends of these 2,70,000 users taking the number upto 50 billion. The data based on their preferences and vulnerabilities which was then used to conduct online political campaigns to credit or discredit the candidate. Cambridge Analytica helps political campaigns reach potential voters online. This was allegedly used to help Trump and Brexit campaign.

The app used by Cambridge Analytica has been developed by an academic from Cambridge University Aleksandr Kogan. Facebook alleged that Kogan didn’t follow rules while sharing data with CA following which the app was deleted in 2015. CA and Kogan were made to certify that data collected has been destroyed. Mr. Kogan on the other hand has denied that he was aware of his app being used to illegally collect data.

After #deletefacebook started trending across the world, Facebook set into damage control mode with Mark taking up responsibilty to protect user data. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. “, he said in a Facebook post. Facebook also assured to inform users whose data has been breached and to develop tools to let users know which apps have access to their data and at what level.

The Facebook incident have excarberated concerns over data security. Indian parties were not far behind to raise allegations against each other for seeking the company’s help to woo voters. Cambridge Analytica, in turn on its site, has also made no secret of its links with India. Its India section mentions its work during Bihar Assembly Election in 2010 that was won by Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) in alliance with the BJP. The bio clearly says, “Our client achieved a landslide victory, with over 90% of total seats targeted by CA being won.”

Earlier, the US based social media giant was rebuked by regulator TRAI for its Free Basics programme. The programme was banned in India as it violated net neutrality. The latest warning to Facebook draws importance as social media is now being used extensively by political parties to sway voters. With the Indian Government already in a fix over allegations of data breach through Aadhar platform, the recent allegations of the two national parties wooing voters through data theft has added fuel to fire leaving many to question the right to privacy in this age of social media.