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Facebook gets into more trouble as data security issues mount

Even as Cambridge Analytica and its alleged illegal use of private data and profiles put Facebook in trouble this last week, the social media giant is falling deeper into the vortex created over security fears.
Zuckerberg says Facebook ‘made mistakes’ on Cambridge Analytica

(Reuters)

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that the social media company made mistakes that allowed data about users to end up with the analytics firm Cambridge Analytica and said the company would make changes.
Zuckerberg, in his first comments since the company disclosed on Friday the misuse of personal data, said in a post on Facebook that the company “made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”

Facebook’s grim week is getting grimmer

(Bloomberg)
The social media giant is being hounded on two continents by governments suddenly focused on data security and investors unliked its stock to the point that it lost $60 billion in value.
The Menlo Park, California, company, whose social network is a ubiquitous venue for social and political life, is drawing the unaccustomed unwelcome attention after the disclosure that it released the personal data of 50 million users to an analytics firm that helped elect President Donald Trump.

The company, Cambridge Analytica, has been implicated in dirty tricks in elections around the globe.
Fast-growing imbroglio

Facebook has struggled to respond to the fast-moving imbroglio.
Even Facebook workers have been in the dark.
The company held a staff meeting on Tuesday to answer their questions and address staff questions about what Facebook knew and when.
Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg plans to address employees on Friday at a previously scheduled all-hands meeting.

Bannon oversaw collection of Facebook data: Ex-employee

(The Washington Post)
LONDON: Conservative strategist Stephen K. Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica’s early efforts to collect troves of Facebook data as part of an ambitious program to build detailed profiles of millions of American voters, a former employee of the data-science firm said Tuesday.
The 2014 effort was part of a high-tech form of voter persuasion touted by the company, which under Bannon identified and tested the power of anti-establishment messages that later would emerge as central themes in President Trump’s campaign speeches, according to Chris Wylie, who left the company at the end of that year.
Among the messages tested were “drain the swamp” and “deep state,” he said.

Stephen K. Bannon, before his time in the White House in the Trump administration, served on the board of Cambridge Analytica. – The Washington Post
Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign, is now facing questions about alleged unethical practices, including charges that the firm improperly handled the data of tens of millions of Facebook users.
Undercover investigation
Here’s part of the video of an undercover investigation made by Channel 4 News which reveals how Cambridge Analytica (CA) secretly campaigns in elections across the world. The CA executive were filmed discussing the use of bribery, ex-spies, fake IDs and sex workers.

On Tuesday, the company’s board announced that it was suspending its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after British television released secret recordings that appeared to show him talking about entrapping political opponents.
More than three years before he served as Trump’s chief political strategist, Bannon helped launch Cambridge Analytica with the financial backing of the wealthy Mercer family as part of a broader effort to create a populist power base.
Earlier this year, the Mercers cut ties with Bannon after he was quoted making incendiary comments about Trump and his family.
$1m for data on Facebook profiles

In an interview Tuesday with The Washington Post at his lawyer’s London office, Wylie said that Bannon — while he was a top executive at Cambridge Analytica and head of Breitbart News — was deeply involved in the company’s strategy and approved spending nearly $1 million to acquire data, including Facebook profiles, in 2014.
“We had to get Bannon to approve everything at this point. Bannon was Alexander Nix’s boss,” said Wylie, who was Cambridge Analytica’s research director.
“Alexander Nix didn’t have the authority to spend that much money without approval.”
Bannon, who served on the company’s board, did not respond to a request for comment.
He served as vice president and secretary of Cambridge Analytica from June 2014 to August 2016, when he became chief executive of Trump’s campaign, according to his publicly filed financial disclosure.
Star of digital advertising
Cambridge Analytica (CA) is respected in the digital advertising world.

At a gathering of leading digital advertising executives in 2017, CA’s Vice President Global Media Molly Schweickert explained on “How digital advertising worked for the US 2016 presidential campaign”.
In the video, published on May 12, 2017, she explains how they used Facebook user data and other sources to target specific users with individual messages for the 2016 Trump election campaign.
Schweickert is Alexander Nix’s digital marketing expert.
Trump’s chief strategist

In 2017, Bannon joined Trump in the White House as his chief strategist.
Bannon received more than $125,000 in consulting fees from Cambridge Analytica in 2016 and owned “membership units” in the company worth between $1 million and $5 million, according to his financial disclosure.
Cambridge Analytica did not respond to a request for comment about Bannon’s role.
For those not privy to the internal meetings, here are the latest developments:
Parliaments request Mr. Zuckerberg’s presence

CEO Zuckerberg may have to do a tour of European parliaments to appease lawmakers.
Damian Collins, head of a UK parliament committee investigating the impact of social media on recent elections, invited Zuckerberg to answer for a “catastrophic failure of process.”
Shortly thereafter an invitation followed from European Parliament President Antonio Tajani.
Separately, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said she also plans to discuss the matter with Facebook during a visit in the US this week while Italian telecommunications regulator AGCOM requested Facebook to provide information on data use.
Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg haven’t yet spoken publicly about the data leak, despite the global firestorm. When Zuckerberg addresses staff on Friday, he’s certain to face questions about the controversy.
US regulators would like a word

The US Federal Trade Commission is looking into whether Facebook broke the terms of a 2011 consent decree.
The FTC is the lead agency for enforcing companies’ adherence to their own privacy policies and could fine the company if it finds Facebook violated the agreement.
Facebook said it would conduct staff-level briefings of six congressional committees Tuesday and Wednesday.
That includes House and Senate judiciary committees, as well as the commerce and intelligence panels of both chambers.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that that it would “be helpful for Facebook to testify about how the company protects user privacy and what steps it’s taking to combat bad actors.”
The attorney generals of New York and Massachusetts sent demand letters to the company, the first step in a joint investigation.
A loss as big as a car (company)

Facebook’s stock price fell as much as 6.2 percent in New York and the stock was down over 11 percent since Friday’s close, giving up $60 billion in market capitalisation. That’s more than the total value of Tesla Inc.
The world’s largest social media network was sued in San Francisco federal court Tuesday by shareholders in a class action who said they suffered losses after the disclosure that Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained profile information on 50 million users.
Free-fall aside, Wall Street analysts remain upbeat.
Buy recommendations continue to roll in and price targets reflect a potential return of 35 percent.
Out of the 43 analysts who recommend buying Facebook shares, not one has downgraded the stock over the crisis.
However, many acknowledge that bad publicity could keep the stock under pressure.
Outraged users ‘Signing Out’

Facebook users don’t have to look far for instructions on how to extricate themselves or their data: Across the Twitterverse and blogospheres, outraged users have said they’re deleting their accounts and how-to instructions are making the rounds. Tech sites have published guides on how to deactivate or control carefully curated social media accounts.
The brushfire comes at an inauspicious moment. Daily active user growth in the U.S. and Canada declined from 185 million in the third quarter to 184 million in the period, the company reported last quarter. That signals the first loss on a quarter-over-quarter basis in the company’s history.
Where is Mark Zuckerberg?

(IANS)
San Francisco: With Facebook getting mired in its biggest-ever controversy following a massive data breach, everyone is asking one question: Where is its CEO Mark Zuckerberg?
Not only Zuckerberg has remained quiet so far, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg who has been the face of the company’s PR strategy is yet to speak on the data scandal.
According to a report in ReCode on Wednesday, Zuckerberg is slated to address a weekly Q&A session with employees on Friday and he may speak before that meeting.
Normally, Zuckerberg or Sandberg come out with long blog posts whenever Facebook gets tangled in controversies but the silence this time is deafening.
Facebook is facing the heat after Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting company, was accused of harvesting data of up to 50 million Facebook users without permission and using the data to help politicians, including US President Donald Trump and the Brexit campaign.
European Union (EU) and British lawmakers have demanded that social media giant Facebook should clarify data breach following revelations that personal data was massively misused for political purposes.
British lawmakers have also summoned Zuckerberg to give oral evidence after “misleading to the Committee” occurred at a previous hearing.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has expressed her concern over the allegations that Cambridge Analytica exploited data of millions of Facebook users without their authorisation in election campaigns.
Facebook has already suspended Cambridge Analytica from its platform.
The social media giant admitted that an estimated 2,70,000 people had downloaded the app and shared their personal information with it.
However, the firm denied all wrongdoings and insisted it followed the correct procedures in obtaining and using data.

Academic behind Facebook breach says he is a ‘scapegoat’

(Reuters)
LONDON:A Cambridge University academic who harvested data on millions of Facebook users said he had been made a scapegoat by the social network and a UK-based political consultancy, and that the accuracy of the dataset had been exaggerated.
Facebook has been rocked this week by a whistleblower who said that Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based political firm hired by Donald Trump, had improperly accessed information on 50 million Facebook users to sway public opinion.
Facebook has said the data was harvested by Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology academic.
“The events of the past week have been a total shell shock,” he told the BBC. “My view is that I’m being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica when… we thought we were doing something that was really normal.” He said the accuracy of the dataset had been “exaggerated” by Cambridge Analytica, and said the dataset was more likely to hurt Trump’s campaign.

Facebook Data and Trump

(AP)
The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into whether Facebook violated an agreement with the agency on data privacy, after reports that information on 50 million users was improperly obtained by the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, according to a person with knowledge of the inquiry.
The investigation, started in recent days, adds to the mounting pressure against Facebook about its handling of the data.
Cambridge Analytica used the information to help President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign profile voters during the 2016 election.
The scrutiny of the company now extends from state capitals to Europe. Attorneys general in Massachusetts and New York are investigating Facebook’s handling of personal data, and the British Parliament has called for a hearing with Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive. Several senators have also called for him to appear in Washington.
Adding to concerns about the company is the impending departure of Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer.
That change, reported Monday by The New York Times, reflects heightened leadership tension at the company.

‘Delete’ Facebook, says WhatsApp co-founder

(AP)
San Francisco: Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, late on Tuesday asked users to “delete” the social media platform, Facebook, amid alleged data leakage of its users for political purposes.
“It is time. #deletefacebook,” Brian Acton tweeted to more than 23,000 of his followers.
WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014.
Facebook is facing a major backlash after reports emerged that the political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, accessed the data of its 50 million users without their permission.

How does all this affect you?

Dona Cherian, Guides Writer
What is Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica (CA) is a private company that gives data analytics and research services to clients.
A critical political pivot, companies like CA, are secretly and sometimes openly used extensively for election campaigns across the world.
They collect voter data from publically-available information sources to develop campaign strategies and demographic profiles.
CA was founded in 2013, supported by Steve Bannon (former White House Chief Strategist) and Robert Mercer.
The company has allegedly been part of the US election campaigns since 2014.
What did they do?

Cambridge University lecturer, Aleksandr Kogan, in association with CA built an app called thisisyourdigitallife. He used this app through his own firm Global Science Research (GSR) with CA’s support to get voluntary information from hundreds of thousands of users through a personality quiz. These users were paid and told that their information would be used for academic purposes. This is where things get murky.
The app also collected Facebook data for friends of these volunteers, which according to Facebook was to be used to improve ‘app experience’ and was not to be sold or used for advertising.
The data collected was, therefore, finally from millions of American Facebook users, all of whom were friends of the first volunteer group. This data then, according to a CA whistle-blower account to the Observer, was used in 2014 for a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements.

Chris Wylie, former Research Director at Cambridge Analytica, (pictured on the right) has given accounts of what went on behind the scenes to get all this information.
“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on”, the whistle-blower told Observer.
CA, therefore, harvested millions of profiles off of Facebook to create targeted political influence for the elections.
Why should you be worried?

Remember the whistle-blower’s account? He says “..target their inner demons’.
When we first read that phrase, we didn’t quite get whether that was just paraphrasing the data breach or something else. The fact is that this data breach shows that any company, let alone CA, can actually target your ‘inner demons’. This is why this is such a big deal.
The algorithm used, as per his account to the Observer, is based on ‘likes’ given out by the profiles they have on their database.
What could they possibly find through just ‘likes’, you may ask.
The system built could find your sexual orientation, childhood trauma, relationship status, political views, vulnerability to drug abuse, and much more.
Someone like CA could build your entire character profile just from what you ‘like’, or now ‘react’ to, on Facebook. You don’t even have to write a word, post a photo, make a statement or say anything out loud.
This has all been scientifically proven as possible — in this research paper published by another academic, Dr. Michal Kosinski.
This paper can explain what came into play for Kogan, the lecturer who created the app, in helping garner so much data without anyone knowing anything.
“Governments, companies, and political parties use persuasive appeals to encourage people to eat healthier, purchase a particular product, or vote for a specific candidate.” – Psychological targeting as an effective approach to digital mass persuasion (by S. C. Matza, M. Kosinski, G. Navec, and D. J. Stillwell)
Who is on Facebook?

According to a report published in January by We Are Social, there are 2.167 billion people actively using Facebook, making it the most used social media platform in the world. It leads over the second most used platform, YouTube, by more than 500 million.

This, going by world population stats released by the United Nations in 2017, would mean that almost a third (28.5 per cent) of the 7.6 billion people in the world are on Facebook. It also means that Facebook has access to personal identity details of 2.167 billion people across the globe.
Companies like CA, therefore, could have access to the character profiles of a third of the world population, and then persuade them to do things without the user being aware at all.
Do you feel affected by the Facebook data scandal?

Cambridge Analytica (CA) has become a notorious online presence lately; this week it made news for its alleged harvest of Facebook profiles, reportedly using it illegally to give the now US President Donald Trump an edge during the 2016 elections. But are people in the UAE really feeling affected by the breach of confidence? Have they even noticed what’s going on?
Here’s what Dubai residents said…
“Whilst this breach itself does not worry me since it doesn’t seem like my account would have been of interest to CA, it does highlight the need to be incredibly careful with the data we share on social me-dia that we may often assume is protected and private.”
– Steve Bambury, British, 39
“After reading the news I’ve felt disbelief, followed by fear and now I’m worried. I will at least try not to attempt clicking on any links on FB, and I will change my settings for more privacy.”
– Pooja Misra, Indian, 41.5
“I’m not a heavy FB user. To be honest I wasn’t even aware of this scandal.”
– Hanane ABA, 30-year-old, Moroccan
“Since this information was used to influence the US Presidential election, I don’t think my information was breached. But it is certainly appalling that Facebook was giving third-party apps the permission to harvest data that they wouldn’t need. Why does a quiz app need info on me and my friends? It cer-tainly goes to show the lack of foresight and vigilance from one of the world’s biggest corporations. I wouldn’t be surprised if this leads to the tech sector being regulated/policed, and I’m all for it.”
– Shahbaaz Ali Khan, 26, Indian
“My Facebook got hacked four years ago and I ended up never retrieving it. I heard about the scandal, however; I wasn’t surprised at all. Data monitoring and social breaches happen all the time but we never hear about them. Once it [your information] gets into the hand of people that have bad inten-tions then that becomes a huge issue.”
– Farid Hage, 26, American/Lebanese
“The fact that all my information on Facebook can and is being used by big corporations to direct-ly or indirectly line their pockets is not surprising, but infuriating all the same. I guess, it was only a mat-ter of time before something like this was brought out into the open, but I’m not too sure if this will change anything, anytime now. Stricter policies and security measures need to be put in place to pre-vent this from happening again, but personally, I don’t see it happening in our lifetime.”
– Anant Kurup, 26, Indian

Source: Gulf News

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