- Facebook suspended accounts of Cambridge Analytica – UK-based data analytics firm – and others over alleged data theft of nearly 50 million users
- The data theft took place before Facebook reduced the amount of data available to third-party apps in 2014
- Cambridge Analytica's practices were revealed in 2016 as a part of a broader investigation into the US presidential election
- This led to a #deletefacebook campaign around the globe
In 2014, Facebook allowed Cambridge University researcher Dr. Aleksandr Kogan to conduct a quiz to learn users' personality traits and gathered data from 270,000 users through its app called "This is Your Digital Life." Facebook has since changed its data-sharing policy drastically to limit the amount of data it shares with third parties.
But a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, revealed that data of nearly 50 million users was shared with Cambridge University, which was in turn used to build psychological profiles of people to predict the political views of the Americans.
Special prosecutor Robert Miller, who largely investigated into Donald Trump's presidential election campaign, also probed Cambridge Analytica's involvement in the polls. Facebook suspended series of accounts, including consulting firm Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) and its political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, linking to the violation of its policies.
While Cambridge Analytica claimed it did nothing illegal, Facebook said the firm failed to delete the users' data when told to do so. Facebook now said it will review other apps that had access to large amounts of data prior to the changes in 2014.
Facebook is facing severe flak for letting third parties access personal user information, and a campaign with #deletefacebook hastag has gained traction online. WhatsApp co-founder also supported the outcry and said "it is time" to delete Facebook.
But deleting Facebook accounts wasn't the part of the solution. Facebook allows users to limit the amount of data that apps can access through some basic settings. Even when the account is deleted, there's a good chance of users' online activity being tracked, but there's a way to prevent that as well.
As the issue escalated fast, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided to address the matter publicly. Zuckerberg accepted the failure and promised that another Cambridge Analytica-like scandal will not happen again. The company will take several security measures to protect user data, he said.
Meanwhile, Indian Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad warned against any social media abuse in a bid to thwart any attempt to influence next year's general elections in the country. Facebook responded to it and said: "We will continue to engage with the government on this matter. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect peoples' information and will take whatever steps are required that this happens."
Stay tuned for all the updates on Facebook's privacy row right here.