We’ve all seen images of Mark Zuckerberg hanging his head in shame and read his public apologies on the news. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations regarding the use of personal data, Facebook users have been questioning what data is actually stored on the social media giant.
Working in the information security industry, we are well too aware of the perils of social media and sharing your personal data on free websites. Yet, it appears this isn’t the case for the majority of the population. Facebook’s use of individuals’ personal data sparked outraged after it was discovered that this information had been used for the 2016 US election.
In his series on Zuckerberg’s mishap with Cambridge Analytica, Nicholas Thompson evaluates how Facebook should have insisted an audit of all of Cambridge Analytica’s machines. Did the data still exist, and had it been used at all? According to the standard rules that developers agree to, Facebook reserves that right. – Zuckerberg himself acknowledged that this was their first mistake.
Thompson outlines how Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge created an application developer account on Facebook and explained why he wanted access to Facebook’s data for a research project.
“Kogan had created the most anodyne of tools for electoral manipulation: an app based on personality quizzes”.
So the data used and stored from this breach was then developed using a ‘personality quiz’. A quiz which according to Thompson also asks for the information of the users Facebook friends before any he or she begins this quiz, thus gathering even more personal data than simply that of those who accepted the terms.
Here started the tumultuous turmoil of the Facebook data scandal – resulting in Zuckerberg banging his head on his keyboard as countless users begin enquiring how much they can find stored about themselves on this site.
So let’s have a look; how much information does the social media platform really gather about each and every one of its users?
If you log in to your account, there is a section labelled ‘ads’. Here you can see all the categories in which your account is linked to. After a quick browse, we are able to learn some of the information Facebook manages to acquire about your preferences and interests; this includes the adverts you have interacted with, pages you have liked, websites you have visited and more. It is unclear as to how exactly Facebook gathers this information, and it appears they are purposefully vague about their activity.
According to The Verge, Facebook had been storing information from call history and SMS data on Android devices – the same call record and SMS data collection has not yet been discovered on iOS devices thanks to Apple’s privacy controls. Following this revelation, many Facebook users were considerably alarmed. In response, Facebook released a blog post clarifying that this information had not been stored or used without consent, and that the feature is opt-in, but the company did not mention what the data is used for.
So it’s evident that despite gaining a little knowledge into the amount of information Facebooks stores, it is all still incredibly vague. We still don’t know how this information is gathered and what it is used for. Zuckerberg is having to respond to lots of questions, and no doubt is ensuring this error will not be repeated in the future. According to Facebook, all privacy settings and data storage are being evaluated. They will be following the GDPR guidelines for all their stored information, promising to ‘be more responsible’ with their users data in the future.
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