The business model and strategy behind the Cambridge Analytica scandal creates even greater awareness, concern and need for data protection with social media use.
Facebook’s at it yet again, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal’s recent exposure to the public. But that’s not all that was exposed. Users’ accounts and private data leaked through to Cambridge Analytica’s servers via a third party app called “This is Your Digital Life,” a quiz completed by millions in 2015. Over 87 million Facebook accounts felt the hit of their personal data violated and used, and this only touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact this hefty data breach could and may have incurred. Red flags are waving incessantly alarming the masses of Facebook’s alleged data harvesting for profitable reasons. There are grounds to believe that this ‘breach’ may not have been a breach at all, rather a prearranged business agreement and strategized model set between Zuckerberg and the UK political profiling firm. Beware – this may in fact become a predominant issue in the not so far off future.

While the political impact of this leak of data is certainly alarming, (particularly when considering the leverage user data could have brought to political campaigns like U.S. 2016 elections alongside Brexit), the more dark and critical question is what’s to make of our so-called privacy? How can we protect our own personal data, whether frequent or infrequent users of Facebook and other social media?

Users were alerted of their account data exploitation with a message from Facebook indicating that they should update privacy settings and that the third party app was removed from their approved access apps. Data that may have been accessed includes everything from public profile particulars, Facebook page likes, users’ birthday and current city – sufficient data for target campaigning for the political profiling firm’s incentives and operations. Additional insights indicate that data was derived from Facebook users’ private status updates, wall posts and that Cambridge Analytica may have even used and shared this info on their own news feed, timeline, posts and more.

While Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made his public apologies for not doing more to protect his users’ privacy, the question remains as to what steps he and his team will take to improve user data protection. Zuckerberg indicated that accounts inactive for 3 months or more will not be privy to app developers’ access to account data. He also emphasized that users will have increased ability to select which aspects of their social media accounts’ personal profile data will be accessible to third-party apps using the “log in with Facebook” function.

While the #deleteFacebook backlash is reaching millions, the impact of the hashtag’s viral sharing and usage is still not entirely clear. Will the number of Facebook users drastically begin decreasing?

What is critical is for Facebook users to protect their accounts as effectively as possible with full awareness of the possible repercussions publicly listed user data can yield.

Facebook shares saw a serious hit on March 17 when the news was announced, dropping nearly 18%. While executives of Cambridge Analytica are paying a weighty toll for their unethical use of data, Facebook’s reputation is now tarnished and the data leak may deter its growing activity. With that, it’s critical to be aware of the data you share on social media, and that seemingly harmless apps requesting Facebook data via the “log in with Facebook” function, may indeed have ulterior motives greater than you can even imagine.

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