Millions of users’ data has been exposed and Facebook is facing a backlash. When trust is everything, this is an example of how not to handle a crisis.
Questions around data use and the responsibilities of corporations are continuing to swirl following reports over the weekend that the private information from 50 million Facebook users was improperly harvested. The allegations relate to data firm Cambridge Analytica which worked on the Trump campaign two years ago.
“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,” Christopher Wylie, a former employee at Cambridge Analytica who helped the company obtain user data, told The Guardian. “That was the basis that the entire company was built on.”
CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has yet to comment on the allegations, however attempts to firefight by Facebook executives has backfired, leading to more outrage. Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth tweeted: “This was unequivocally not a data breach. People chose to share their data with third party apps and if those third party apps did not follow the data agreements with us/users it is a violation. no systems were infiltrated, no passwords or information were stolen and hacked.”
The definition of “breach” seems moot at this point, the issue being that Facebook users feel exploited: “You can’t and shouldn’t trust the platform. Its purpose is to exploit users; it cannot make money unless it does so,” tweeted one user. Many responses to Bosworth’s comments echo the same sentiment.
Given the number of apps that use Facebook for data, after this latest breach-that-wasn’t-a-breach, users may now be far more hesitant to share personal information. In an age where consumer trust is everything online, this is a lesson to companies of all sizes.