The Facebook has been in the news quite a bit. From issuing public statements, testifying at the European Union and United States Senate, they are not on the hottest of streaks. In March of 2018, it was revealed that over fifty million had been breached and had data collected. Not only was this unfortunate for the users, but it showed a huge security risk in one of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies. The millions of accounts were used by a company called Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica was founded in 2013 by Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL). SCL was defunct in May of 2018. The communication company was a British firm that did all sorts of services. They provided help to companies that needed behavioral research. They were also consultants for strategic communication.
SCL established Cambridge Analytica in 2012 as an attempt to enter the United States market. The company was associated with forty four elections, some of which were races for the Senate and The House, in the 2014 midterms. In 2015, the company became involved in the race for the Republican Presidential candidate. It was released later that the company was in favor of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cambridge Analytica also received major investments from a hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. Mercer was part of a fund that was responsible for handling over twenty five billion dollars. And that is billion with a B. During the beginning of the primaries he supported Cruz, but as time progressed he was in favor of Donald Trump.
In 2015, The Guardian published an article citing that Senator Ted Cruz had been taking data from the company to use for his political campaign.
In March 2018, The Guardian, The New York Times, and Channel Four News came out with reports outlining the data breach. The information came from Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica. Wylie was the former director of the research at the firm. In 2018, he gave The Guardian documents outlining what the company was doing and where the data was going. His evidence would later be used by the United Kingdom’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
The breaking story about the company sent a shockwave through practically every form of communication. When you can have a company that is so large like Facebook, data breaching could happen to anyone of these technological firms.
The Associated Press also released an article about Cambridge Analytica sister company, Data Propria. The company had been working on gathering and using data for the 2020 Donald Trump presidential campaign.
Facebook is involved with them only because of faults in their software. One of the apps that can be used on the website, users would have to allow the third party developers access to their information. This is all pretty standard stuff, to use an app you need to give them an idea of who their user is and what kind of consumer they are. However, there was a catch to this process. Not only would they be receiving your information, but all of your facebook friends’ information. This is precisely how they went from gathering a few thousands account worth of data, to millions!
As a result of the case, CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg was asked to testify in front of the United States Senate. Here politicians grilled him about everything you could think of. Some of the concerns were valid but others showed a concerning amount of Senators that had no idea what the subject was really about it.
“Would you tell me the name of the hotel you stayed at last night?”
“How does Facebook turn a profit?”
In late May 2018, the Zuck was summoned to the European Union’s Parliament located in Brussels. At the EU things were worked out the same as they did at the Senate. Politicians were asking either really easy questions, or questions that no one could ever remember the answer to.
The meeting was formatted differently then it had been for the Senate hearing. Instead of having to sit there and get grilled at for hours on end, Zuckerberg just had to endure through 80 minutes with the EU.
Members of the committee asked many of the same questions. Whether Facebook holds a monopoly in the social media sector. What will be done to fix the mistake, and to ensure it does not happen again? Zuckerberg’s response was that the company was reinvesting their security team. He stated that the amount of people running Facebook’s security will double.
This is the part where it all comes full circle for me. During my stay in Europe I had seen dozens of posters for Facebook. From a distance it looked like the social media giant was just apologizing. Looking at the signs closer though they tell how Facebook is hiring for more security and doubling down on their effort for data protection.
Now please enjoy some of the photos from the last week of holiday.