Facebook says 87 mn users' data accessed, Cambridge Analytica denies

Photo: Reuters
Facebook has confirmed that data of up to 87 million users were accessed by Cambridge Analytica in an unauthorised manner — this is way more than what was previously reported. Earlier, the overall figure disclosed by the whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, was 50 million. 

Facebook's Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer announced the latest numbers on Wednesday in a blog post. 

The controversy: 

Cambridge Analytica came to the spotlight after Facebook Vice-President and Deputy General counsel Paul Grewal published a message mentioning that the SCL and Cambridge Analytica had been suspended for violation Facebook policy. The firm had not deleted the data it had received in 2015 from a developer.

SCL had access to user data through a Facebook app called “thisisyourdigitallife" and the app was downloaded by by 270,000 people.

Cambridge Analytica is widely known for helping Donald Trump's campaign in the US Presidential Election 2016.

After the scandal broke, there has been a growing skepticism around the safety of personal data on social media.

Over a half a million data is from India: Facebook

A Facebook spokesperson said that while 335 people in India were directly affected through an app installation, another 562,120 people were potentially affected as friends of those users. 

"This yields a total of 562,455 potentially affected people in India, which is 0.6 per cent of the global number of potentially affected people," spokesperson added. 

The company said it is "investigating" the specific number of people whose information was accessed, including those in India. 

Personal data of 87 million accessed by Facebook:

Facebook's chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer made the revelation in a statement announcing the implementation of the social media company's new privacy tools for users.

"In total, we believe the Facebook information of up to 87 million people — mostly in the US — may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica," he said.

The new estimate could deepen the crisis for Facebook, which has been pressured by the disclosures on the hijacking of private data by the consulting group working for Donald Trump's 2016.

Cambridge Analytica denies the claim:

Cambridge Analytica refuted Facebook's claim that up to 87 million users' data had been accessed by the company. Cambridge Analytica confirmed “licensed data for no more than 30 million people” from Dr Aleksandr Kogan’s research company Global Science Research.

Cambridge Analytica also confirmed that none of the data used in US Presidential Elections 2016. 

Official statement: 

Today Facebook reported that information for up to 87 million people may have been improperly obtained by research company GSR. Cambridge Analytica licensed data for no more than 30 million people from GSR, as is clearly stated in our contract with the research company. We did not receive more data than this. 

We did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election. 

Our contract with GSR stated that all data must be obtained legally, and this contract is now a matter of public record. We took legal action against GSR when we found out they had breached this contract.

When Facebook contacted us to let us know the data had been improperly obtained, we immediately deleted the raw data from our file server, and began the process of searching for and removing any of its derivatives in our system. 

When Facebook sought further assurances a year ago, we carried out an internal audit to make sure that all the data, all derivatives, and all backups had been deleted, and gave Facebook a certificate to this effect. 

We are now undertaking an independent third-party audit to demonstrate that no GSR data remains in our systems.

Zuckerberg to testify before US Congress on Apr 11:

Following the Cambridge Analytica controversy over the alleged misuse of personal data, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg will testify before a US congressional committee on April 11. 

"I am going to be sending one of our top folks. I believe it's going to be Schrep, the CTO, or Chris Cox, the product officer. These are the top folks who I run the company with - to answer additional questions from countries and other places."

Facebook trying best to protect your 'personal data'

Malicious actors had been abusing a feature that let users search for one another by typing in email addresses or phone numbers into Facebook's search box.

As a result, many people's public profile information had been "scraped" and matched to the contact details, which had been obtained from elsewhere. Facebook has now blocked the facility.

"We wanted to shut that down because we felt like there were too many apps and too many folks who would have had access to people's content, and that would have been problematic," Zuckerberg said.

Trying to tackle 'fake news', says Zuckerberg

Facebook has a big responsibility when it comes to tackle fake news on its platform this year as several countries are facing general elections, said Zuckerberg. 

"This year is going to be an important year for protecting election integrity around the world. There's the Mexican presidential election, there are big elections in India and Brazil, as well as Pakistan and Hungary and a number of other countries, and the US midterms, of course, too," he told the media persons.

"Let me talk about how we're fighting fake news across the board. The three basic categories, are: economic actors - basically spammers - the second are governments, trying to interfere in elections - that's a security issue - the third is just polarisation and some kind of lack of truthfulness.

Facebook's major focus is on polls in India, US

Facebook has deployed technology tools like artificial intelligence and thousands of people to work on security as the company's "major focus" this year is to protect the integrity of upcoming elections in several countries, including India, on its platform, its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said.

Terming 2018 a "big year" for elections, Zuckerberg said Facebook was enhancing its security features to prevent trolls from spreading information.

Zuckerberg to appear for Senate testimony on April 10 

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg will appear before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees next Tuesday, the chairmen of those panels said on Wednesday night.

“Our joint hearing will be a public conversation with the CEO of this powerful and influential company about his vision for addressing problems that have generated significant concern about Facebook’s role in our democracy, bad actors using the platform, and user privacy,” the Commerce Committee chairman, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, said in a statement, reported Bloomberg.

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