After days of silence, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has responded to the controversy over the 2014 leak of private Facebook user data to a firm that went on to do political consulting work for the Donald Trump campaign in 2016.
Cambridge Analytica got the data by paying a psychology professor, Aleksandr Kogan, to create a Facebook personality quiz that harvested data not only about its own users but also about users’ friends. Kogan amassed data from around 50 million users and turned it over to Cambridge.
Zuckerberg says that when Facebook learned about this transfer in 2015, it got Kogan and Cambridge to certify that they had deleted the data. But media reports this weekend suggested that Cambridge had lied and retained the data throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.
This whole thing should make everyone think twice about how – and if – they should keep using Facebook. I’ve personally always been incredibly careful about what data I put on Facebook and I’ve rarely – if ever – used any Facebook ‘apps’, but in the end, you don’t even need to feed Facebook any data for them to figure out who you are and what you’re interested in. It’s actually remarkably easy to extrapolate a whole lot about you from simple things like the times you’re online, or which sites with Facebook social trackers you visit, and so on.
I trust Google with such forms of data, but not Facebook. If it wasn’t for my friends, I’d delete my Facebook account in a heartbeat. My hope is that this story – which has certainly permeated beyond tech media into the mainstream media – will push more and more of the people around me to consider leaving Facebook.