The Cambridge Analytica scandal has done immense damage to the brand, sources across the company believe. It will now take a Herculean effort to restore public trust in Facebook’s commitment to privacy and data protection, they said. Outside observers think regulation has suddenly become more likely, and yet CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears missing in action.
The scandal also highlights a problem that is built into the company’s DNA: Its business is data exploitation. Facebook makes money by, among other things, harvesting your data and selling it to app developers and advertisers. Preventing those buyers from passing that data to third parties with ulterior motives may ultimately be impossible.
Indeed, the most alarming aspect of Cambridge Analytica’s “breach” is that it wasn’t a breach at all. It happened almost entirely above board and in line with Facebook policy.
Aleksandr Kogan, a University of Cambridge professor, accessed the data of more than 50 million Facebook users simply by creating a survey filled out by 270,000 people. Facebook provided Kogan with the data of anyone who took the survey, as well as their friends’ data. In a statement, Facebook said, “Kogan gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels that governed all developers on Facebook at that time.”
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