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Zuckerberg responds with open letter on the Cambridge Analytica scandal: a recap

By Julio Franco · 20 replies
Mar 21, 2018
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  1. The rise of Facebook has not been without scandal, heck, there's even a (pretty good) movie about its troubled beginnings. Founder Mark Zuckerberg has found itself in a tight spot numerous other times; it all came with the territory: becoming a public figure at a young age, becoming a billionaire, creating one of the world's most used websites which happens to be a social network that collects personal data (as surrendered by users themselves), becoming a tech leader and holding the power and influence that comes with the title.

    But this month's Cambridge Analytica situation is without doubt the biggest scandal the social juggernaut will have faced in its 14-year history. Big companies, in and outside of tech, getting hacked and exposing customers data is nothing new. Even when done recklessly due to poor security practices, most companies have been able to survive it.

    However, the Facebook situation has turned into a much bigger ticking bomb because the abuse of its network data, which did not originate from an unauthorized hack, has had ripple effects that touch dearly into the world of politics, a heated presidential election, and a controversial and scrutinized figure in Donald Trump, now President of the United States.

    ...this situation has turned into a much bigger ticking bomb because the (...) ripple effects that touch dearly into the world of politics, a heated presidential election, and a controversial and scrutinized figure in Donald Trump, now President of the United States.

    Trump's political team at some point during the past election benefited from services offered by Cambridge Analytica. The company built psychological profiles of people using their Facebook data, which could then be used in personalized political messages aimed at potential voters. The raw user data was acquired using Facebook's own APIs, though abusing its terms of service, resulting in data harvesting from an estimated 50 million Facebook friends, who didn’t know about the app or give consent, yet still had their personal info sucked up.

    To put that 50 million figure into perspective, by the end of 2017, Facebook had 2.2 billion monthly active users worldwide.

    About the situation, Mark Zuckerberg took its time to "understand exactly what happened" and has now responded with an open letter. He's expected to do some interviews (see below) as well, and as media coverage and pressure intensifies, he may have to answer calls to testify in front of Congress, the FTC, or the UK Parliament.

    The letter opens saying "We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you," and then goes on to explain what happened using a timeline of events. There is no apology, but there is a clear commitment to do better, a claim of responsability by Zuckerberg himself, and the assurance that whatever loophole existed to harvest data, it's not been possible to do that for a long time.

    Unfortunately, there is no explanation of when Facebook learned about the API misuse (reports say as early as 2015) and why the company didn't disclose or raise any public concern about this. It also misses the mark when saying they tightened security to third parties in 2014, but the presidential election took place in late 2016.

    This is likely just the beginning for Facebook and we'll watch the aftermath unfold in the coming days and weeks. Zuckerberg did anticipate planned future action in the form of three initiatives to secure user data: 1) they will conduct a an audit of any app that had access to large quantities of information before they secured their API in 2014, making sure there is no suspicious activity, 2) they will restrict developers' data access further, asking them to sign a contract and adding an expiry date to third party connections on apps you may no longer use, 3) they will launch a new tool (one already exists but is somewhat obscured within Facebook's security settings) next month that will help users better understand which apps have your data, and giving you easy access to revoke those permissions.

    Facebook just happens to be the keeper and trove of all that data and it's up to you to decide if you trust them with it or not.

    Do not forget, when you opt-in for a service -- in this case Facebook, but could be any service -- and you voluntarily concede a lot of your personal data, that data is at risk of being acquired by a third party sooner or later, unauthorized or not (no security is perfect). Facebook just happens to be the keeper and trove of all that data and it's up to you to decide if you trust them with it or not.

    There are varied opinions on whether Facebook's CEO response addresses enough. Some of the planned improvements may sound coherent, if not necessary, so why didn't they come sooner? Well, on the exterior Facebook is a social network, but its core business depends on collecting users' data and providing access to those users. I'd call that a conflict of interest.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,010   +3,422

    Promises, promises, promises ...... The only way it will get better is a law that REQUIRES them to delete every bit of your data upon request and if they don't, they pay you the user a hefty fine .... say around $10,000.
    EClyde, SirChocula and holdum323 like this.
  3. holdum323

    holdum323 Banned Posts: 1,721   +454

    Hi! I'm sure if the government is involved, the law they create won't be worth much. I have no use for Facebook, but there are several others that gather your in formation. I just unsubscribed from Linkedln, because IMHO they are doing the same thing that Facebook is doing. Things will only get worse. It's all down hill from here.:D
    mbalensiefer and Charles Olson like this.
  4. Hasbean

    Hasbean TS Booster Posts: 124   +35

    This whole episode relating to farcebook is a distraction from the real story we should all be concentrating on. Namely the meddling in our democratic elections by a foreign state. Surely we should be talking about that rather than suckerberg's multi-billion dollar empire and flaccid apology.

    Accordingly, sanctions on the country that CA originates from should have been readily enacted by now.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2018
    holdum323 likes this.
  5. seeprime

    seeprime TS Guru Posts: 354   +382

    Being the cynical person that I am, I suspect that the world's governments have grown used to scraping Facebook user data and now rely on its easy availability. So, any comments made by the feds, except for clearly written laws with specific requirements, will be for public consumption and misdirection. If user data is deleted by Facebook, who's to say it won't be moved to new locations, possibly the NSA in Utah?
    mbalensiefer likes this.
  6. baskiria

    baskiria TS Enthusiast Posts: 74   +42

    And fb is a fairytale compared to what google knows of you.
    clytndn and regiq like this.
  7. regiq

    regiq TS Addict Posts: 203   +80

    A good read.

    The plus side of this scandal is that more people will get to know about these practices. Data is the new oil, an actual internet currency, trade it wisely. That's basically all you do whenever you go online - trade your data to get access to services.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2018
    clytndn and senketsu like this.
  8. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,863   +1,142

    What's the big deal? Just because someone that used the data to help or potentially help a Republican candidate? THAT is the issue?
    Then why wasn't the media all worked up in 2008 & 2012 when the Obama campaign did pretty much the EXACT same thing??
    clytndn and mbalensiefer like this.
  9. McMurdeR

    McMurdeR TS Addict Posts: 131   +95

    Facebook are rumoured to be much more aggressive about what they do with it, but I'd concede the point.
  10. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,546   +1,917

    LOL - trust them? Nope!
  11. mbalensiefer

    mbalensiefer TS Enthusiast Posts: 56   +27

    The Deep State IS FaceBook and all our Social Networks...
    SirChocula and holdum323 like this.
  12. mbalensiefer

    mbalensiefer TS Enthusiast Posts: 56   +27

    ...except that the US has in the past, and will the future, readily interfere with foreign government elections, ourself. Example: Iraq, Iran, Israel, the Philippines, Cuba, Uganda...that I can think of in one minute.
    senketsu, Hasbean and SirChocula like this.
  13. Charles Olson

    Charles Olson TS Enthusiast Posts: 41   +10

    Nope not the exact same thing here more like apples to orange comparison ! Obama had people ( most likely campaign volunteers phone people and ask if they would like to provide info ) and in this instance ( according to Mark Zuckerberg ) this service ( or app ) used data outside of it's intended purpose ! So not the same thing here and also the amount of data collected ( I highlyy doubt that Obama's team made over 50 million phone calls to collect data ) is quite different ! Also since this broke out Bill Gates has had at two personal meetings at the White House so I wonder where Trump's team will be getting there info for the next elections ! Just my two cents
  14. mbalensiefer

    mbalensiefer TS Enthusiast Posts: 56   +27

    It was the same thing, dude. Give it up. Trump 2020.
  15. Charles Olson

    Charles Olson TS Enthusiast Posts: 41   +10

    Not even close !
  16. SirChocula

    SirChocula TS Maniac Posts: 174   +183

    The first and most crucial error in your statement is that you actually believe "elections" and "voting" actually gives any voice/power to the common people. If "voting" actually did anything on any truly meaningful level, (((they))) would have not allowed it. The 2 party system is the biggest joke the crooks in Washington employed against the average Joe, having him think they are actually different.
    Hasbean likes this.
  17. Hasbean

    Hasbean TS Booster Posts: 124   +35

    I concur entirely, that's why we need a system that allows a vote for 'none of the above', and a system of financial control that eliminates the lobby and its money. But when you have a rigged system its almost impossible to wrangle control back to the people.
    senketsu and SirChocula like this.
  18. SirChocula

    SirChocula TS Maniac Posts: 174   +183

    Yea, that would be ideal in this world of ours. It's sad that the 2nd Amendment isn't entirely useful anymore...given the technology of the military is light years beyond anything the civilians possess, so for us to defend ourselves against a tyrannical government (as implied by the 2nd amendment) is virtually impossible. The system will not change until the economy eventually collapses under this fractional reserve banking system (((they))) have in place or some other catastrophic disaster...both which will spill a lot of innocent blood.
    senketsu likes this.
  19. Berty Boy

    Berty Boy TS Rookie

    Data protection act Section 10 Notice gone in to facebook yesterday , will s e what they say
  20. well there is the old joke, computer crashed, lost all your data? No problem, just phone the NSA, they'll have a backup
  21. clytndn

    clytndn TS Member

    Ahhh...someone else here that has done their homework & noticed that this has been done in the past without any red lights flashing and no bells or whistles screaming. Odd aint it? FB has been doing the EXACT same thing that all the political agencies did in their own campaigns. They just saved themselves a step and used FB's process instead. Why...1) It was already in place collecting data on people and 'tailoring ads' toward them. 2) That lil ol 'OPT OUT' button...well we may not have been tailoring every ad towards that person, but we still have the data we collected and it's current. 3) YES WE CAN! We can implement our system into any other system fairly easy. We planned ahead and made sure that our system would be compatible with a variety of others systems. 4) We only collect a person's data to make that person's experience more personal/favorable towards them.

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