Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced Congress for the first time last Tuesday after news broke in mid-March by the New York Times and The Guardian's Observer that Cambridge Analytica, a London-based data-mining firm best known for it's collaboration with the Donald Trump's presidential campaign, lifted data from millions of users on the social networking site without their permission.
Some key moments of Zuckerberg’s hearing with Congress included discussions on right to privacy, storing and selling personal data, Russian interference and possible regulations.
In 2013, a Cambridge University professor, Aleksandr Kogan created an app called "This is your Digital Life." The app was used by over 300,000 users on Facebook, but Kogan also managed to access the profile data of other Facebook users who were friends of those who used the app. This resulted in tens of millions of their friends also caught in the data dragnet. Cambridge Analytica later acquired this data from him which led to the scandal.
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who set up the firm and worked with Kogan at Cambridge University to obtain the data, broke silence and said that the system could target individual voters with personalized political ads.
The firm is best known for its collaboration with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.
The leakage of datas appeared to have caused anxiety across users about Facebook’s ability to share their data and indirectly influence their decision.
“The facebook scandal was a huge invasion of the user's privacy. As a user, I have lost trust in my privacy and I am now worried about my social media accounts,” said Alyssa Gutierrez, a sophomore political science major.
Zuckerberg has since apologized and acknowledged he made a huge mistake in failing to protect user’s data. Facebook has since began informing users if their data was passed to Cambridge Analytica. It has also started to block apps from accessing user data 90 days after non-use.
“Up until now, the tech industry has been afforded the luxury of writing its own rules. But privacy violations such as occurred with Facebook raise serious questions regarding just how much we can rely on the tech industry to self-regulate. If the heads of the major tech firms are smart politically, they will start drawing up regulations with which they can live and deliver them to Congress, in hopes that they can invent the regulatory structures that benefit them, while not forcing them to give up too much,” says Michael A. Genovese, professor of political science and president of Global Policy Institute at LMU.
When asked during Congress if regulation for Facebook should take place, Zuckerberg explained, “I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not.”
2014: The quiz app, ‘This is your Digital Life’ is created.
Dec. 2015: Guardian reported that the firm Cambridge Analytica had data from the app to help Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in the U.S. Facebook says they had banned Kogan’s app and asked both Cambridge Analytica and Kogan to delete all the data that was improperly acquired.
March 16, 2018: Social media giant, Facebook, knew ahead of time that on Saturday, the New York Times and The Guardian's Observer would published articles on leaked data. In a bid to protect itself, Facebook proceeded to send letters to the media firms laying out its legal case for why this data leak did not constitute a "breach" and they had suspended Cambridge Analytica from its site.
March 17, 2018: One of the largest data breach was in the history of Facebook, news broke out that Cambridge Analytica played a role in harvesting and misusing private and personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users.
March 18, 2018: U.S. and British lawmakers demanded that Facebook explain how the firm was able to harvest personal information without the social network's alerting users. U.S. senators called Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress.
March 20, 2018: Cambridge Analytica suspends its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after British Channel 4 airs a second undercover video where he claims the firms’s online campaign played a decisive role in Trump’s 2016 election victory.
Shareholders sued Facebook in San Francisco federal court in a class action, saying that they suffered losses after the data privacy violations disclosure.
March 21, 2018: Fears of increased regulation over social media firms triggered Facebook's shares to tumble more than 9 per cent in the past week, losing $60 billion.
March 25, 2018: Facebook apologizes for the data scandal with a full page ad in newspapers in the U.S. and U.K.
March 28, 2018: Facebook announces changes to privacy settings to make them easier to find and use.
April 9, 2018: Facebook says it will begin informing users if their data was passed to Cambridge Analytica from today by dropping a notification into the News Feed.
April 10, 2018: Mark Zuckerberg testify's to Congress. Facebook begins blocking apps from accessing user data 90 days after non-use. It also rolls out the earlier trailed updates to its bug bounty program.