Facebook’s role in the 2016 US election grew more complicated this past weekend, when bombshell reports in The New York Times and The Guardian revealed the extent to which London-based data mining and analytics firm Cambridge Analytica misused user data from as many as 50 million Facebook users.
The data was obtained by Cambridge psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan and given to the affiliated behavior research firm Strategic Communication Laboratories in a violation of Facebook’s terms of service. The actions of the firm, which denies any wrongdoing, has kicked up a massive debate over Facebook’s failures to police its platform and its responsibility to both user privacy and the institution of democracy itself. Check back here for all the news as this story develops.
Aug 27, 2022
Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were in line to give hours of depositions in response to a lawsuit over Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, but now that won’t happen — the company has reached a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs. As reported earlier by Reuters, a court filing reveals the parties have reached an agreement in principle and requested a stay of 60 days to finalize their written agreement. Without the settlement and stay, they would have been deposed before September 20th.Read Article >
You can read the document for yourself below, but so far, there are no details about the terms of the agreement. Meta, as the company is now known, declined to comment via a spokesperson, while lawyers for the plaintiffs have not yet responded to an inquiry from The Verge. Still, I’d guess that keeping things from going any further is worth a lot of money to Meta, no matter how much it’s spending on VR.
Oct 20, 2021
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine is adding Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to a lawsuit over the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal. Racine announced the addition on Twitter this morning, saying his investigation had revealed that Zuckerberg was “personally involved in decisions related to Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s failure to protect user data.”Read Article >
The 2018 lawsuit accuses Facebook (and now Zuckerberg) of misrepresenting its policies around third-party data access and compromising user privacy with lax protections. The attorney general’s office alleges that Facebook violated the Consumer Protection Procedures Act and seeks civil damages for the offense. A judge allowed the case to proceed despite Facebook’s efforts to halt it in 2019.
Facebook today announced that it has suspended “tens of thousands” of apps as part of an ongoing investigation into improper data use on the part of third-party developers. The investigation is part of a broader effort the company embarked on last year in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, which involved a political consulting firm purchasing data on tens of millions of Facebook users that had been collected, packaged, and sold by the maker of a quiz mobile app.Read Article >
The tech giant has been slow to reveal the scope of its ongoing investigation. In May 2018, the company said 200 apps had been suspended; in August 2018, that number jumped to 400. Now, roughly 12 months later, the company is admitting that it investigated millions of apps and has suspended “tens of thousands.”
Dec 19, 2018
The office of the Washington, DC attorney general announced today that it is filing a lawsuit against Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.Read Article >
The scandal erupted this year after it was revealed that Facebook had leaked the data of tens of millions of users by sharing the information with an academic, which was in turn obtained by the data firm. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hauled before Congress to testify after the revelation, and Cambridge Analytica has since folded, the lawsuit is the first major government action taken in the United States against Facebook over the incident.
Nov 21, 2018
Facebook is appealing the £500,000 fine levied by the UK’s data watchdog over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social network has confirmed. It says the decision taken by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is unjustified, and that the regulator found no evidence that UK users specifically had their information improperly shared. The news comes on the day Facebook’s right to appeal was due to expire.Read Article >
Facebook’s lawyer, Anna Benckert, said that the ICO’s fine “no longer relates to the events involving Cambridge Analytica” because it has found “no evidence” that Facebook users in the UK had their information shared with the analytics company. The lawyer’s statement goes on to say that this broadens the reasoning behind the ICO’s fine, meaning it could threaten “the basic principles of how people should be allowed to share information online.” The company argues, for example, that it would prevent people from forwarding messages without the original author’s explicit consent.
Oct 25, 2018
The UK’s data watchdog has levied the maximum possible fine against Facebook for its failure to protect user’s personal information in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.Read Article >
The fine is just £500,000 ($644,000), a small fee for a company that posted $13.2 billion in revenue in the last quarter alone. But the figure was calculated using the UK’s outdated 1998 Data Protection Act, and regulators say it would have been “significantly higher” under the EU’s new GDPR regulations, which came into force in the UK in May.
Jul 31, 2018
Facebook this evening announced that it’s shutting off access to its application programming interface, the developer platform that lets app makers access user data, for hundreds of thousands of inactive apps. The company had set an August 1st deadline back in May, during its F8 developer conference, for developers and businesses to re-submit apps to an internal review, a process that involves signing new contracts around user data collection and verifying one’s authenticity.Read Article >
The goal is to ensure third-party software on Facebook was in line with the company’s data privacy rules and new restrictions put in place in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a third-party developer siphoned user data and sold it to another firm in violation of Facebook’s terms of service. Now, after it identified numerous apps that were either inactive or from developers who had not submitted the software for review, Facebook is cutting off those apps’ access to its Platform API.
Jul 10, 2018
United Kingdom regulators slapped Facebook with the maximum possible fine over this year’s Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, several outlets reported Tuesday. The Washington Post was among those reporting that Facebook would have to pay £500,000, or about $664,000, after data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained information about millions of users and used it in an effort to sway the 2016 US presidential election.Read Article >
The UK Information Commissioner’s office found that Facebook lacked sufficient privacy protections and failed to catch warning signs that Cambridge Analytica was misusing people’s data, the Post reported. In addition to the US election, Cambridge Analytica also worked on the successful Brexit campaign, among other projects.
Jun 28, 2018
Apparently, Ceukelaire attempted to contact Facebook about this multiple times and was told the company would look into it. And in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal — in which tens of millions of users had their personal information collected, packaged, and sold to a third-party company — Facebook’s handling of data leaks and security breaches is under especially heavy scrutiny. Only months later, in June, did Ceukelaire notice that NameTests had changed the way it processed user data to close the leak.
Jun 15, 2018
Data analysis company Data Propria, led by a former Cambridge Analytica strategist, is reportedly working on President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. The Associated Press reports that Data Propria has begun work on a project “along the lines” of Cambridge Analytica’s controversial work for Trump in 2016. Data Propria head Matt Oczkowski denied the claim, though he didn’t rule the idea out for the future.Read Article >
The AP writes that Data Propria, which launched late last month, is affiliated with at least four employees of now-defunct Cambridge Analytica. (Oczkowski himself was formerly Cambridge Analytica’s head of product.) Like Cambridge Analytica, Data Propria uses data and behavioral science to target internet users with ads or political messages. The company has confirmed that it’s got a “modest” contract with the Republican National Committee for this year’s midterm elections.
Jun 8, 2018
A series of reports this week revealed that, for the past 10 years, Facebook’s broad sharing of data extended not only to app developers but to phone companies as well. That included an agreement with Huawei, which has already been under intense government scrutiny for potential cybersecurity risks due to its alleged ties to Beijing.Read Article >
On Sunday, following a New York Times report, Facebook admitted that it had data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers, including Apple, Samsung, and Amazon. These companies received access to user data, including information on a user’s friends without their consent. In some instances, they could even access the information of friends of friends, as one Times reporter with a 2013 BlackBerry found. The admission reveals that the massive Cambridge Analytica data scandal, in which the data of over 87 million Facebook users was mined through a third-party social media app, was not an outlier.
Jun 7, 2018
On October 19th of last year, a just-barely bipartisan group of senators held a press conference to announce a new piece of legislation. The Honest Ads Act, as the bill is called, would require Facebook, Google, and other tech platforms to retain copies of the political ads they host and make them available for public inspection. Platforms would have to release information about who bought the ads, how much they cost, and to whom the ads were targeted. Anyone who spent more than $500 on political ads would be subject to public scrutiny.Read Article >
“Our democracy is at risk,” a solemn Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) told reporters at the time. “Russia attacked our elections, and they and other foreign powers and interests will continue to divide our country if we don’t act now.” Klobuchar presented the legislation as a simple but urgent fix, and played up the bill’s bipartisan nature in hopes that it would quickly become law.
May 22, 2018
Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before European Parliament today was designed to give members a chance to ask Facebook’s CEO about pressing matters involving data privacy, terrorist content, disinformation, and monopoly power, among other issues. Over the course of an hour, Zuckerberg did face sharp inquiries about each of those subjects. But the format of the hearing allowed him only a few minutes to answer dozens of intricate questions. By the time the hearing was over, he had only offered some high-level answers that were largely recycled from his previous appearances before Congress.Read Article >
The result, for anyone who has been paying attention to the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, was a strong sense of déjà vu. In response to questions about data privacy, Zuckerberg said Facebook was reviewing thousands of apps that once had broad access to user information, and the process would take months to complete. Terrorism? Nearly all posts promoting al-Qaeda and ISIS are removed automatically through systems powered by machine learning. Disinformation? Facebook is working to remove the economic incentives for publishing fake news, which addresses the majority of people posting it. And monopoly power? The average person uses eight different apps to communicate, Zuckerberg said — without noting, as usual, that Facebook owns three of them.
May 22, 2018
Today from 12:00PM ET to 1:30PM ET, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will appear before the European Parliament to answer questions that will likely focus on Facebook’s user privacy policies. The meeting was initially going to be a closed session, but yesterday, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said that Zuckerberg had agreed to a live stream of the proceedings. It will be available through Tajani’s page on Facebook and the European Parliament’s website, and we’ve embedded it below. The EP’s live streaming schedule actually lists two events: a handshake between Tajani and Zuckerberg at 18:00 CET (12:00PM ET), and the conference at 18:20 CET (12:20PM ET).Read Article >
At one hour and fifteen minutes long, this meeting isn’t going to be as exhaustive as Zuckerberg’s two-day session in front of the US Senate and House of Representatives. But it will probably cover similar ground to those hearings, potentially with more emphasis on the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect May 25th.
May 21, 2018
The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, has announced that his meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tomorrow is no longer behind closed doors and will be live-streamed. Tajani made the announcement in a tweet that Zuckerberg has accepted his new request for the public meeting, which is expected to also include the leaders of Parliament’s political groups and some parliament members (MEPs). The meeting was previously a private one, but according to Politico, criticism from the public, lawmakers, and MEPs led to the turnaround.Read Article >
“We’re looking forward to the meeting and happy for it to be livestreamed,” Facebook said in a statement to Politico. The meeting will be streamed via the European Parliament website from 6:15PM to 7:30PM CET (12:15PM ET to 1:30PM ET) tomorrow.
May 15, 2018
The Justice Department and FBI are reportedly investigating Cambridge Analytica over Facebook scandal
The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have launched an inquiry into Cambridge Analytica, the data mining firm that last month announced it would be shutting down amid the Facebook privacy scandal that embroiled the social network starting back in March. The investigation, the existence of which was first reported this evening by The New York Times, is still in the early stages and we don’t yet know if it has anything to do with Cambridge Analytica’s connections to the 2016 presidential campaign of President Donald Trump, according to The Times.Read Article >
The firm supposedly provided ad targeting expertise for Trump’s campaign based on data it acquired from Cambridge psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan, who gathered the data on as many as 87 million Facebook users using a quiz app that siphoned the information from its users’ friends lists. Kogan then packaged and sold that data in violation of Facebook’s terms of service. The DOJ and FBI are reportedly looking into whether Cambridge Analytica violated American election laws by acquiring the data and using it to inform its services, which were based on the idea that such data could help campaigns create profiles of American voters whose behaviors could then be swayed by specific ad targeting.
May 3, 2018
Cambridge Analytica was nothing if not consistent. After nearly two months of scandal, the Trump campaign’s onetime data analytics firm died as it lived: denying it ever did anything wrong and excoriating the journalists who reported about the ways in which it misused data. Its timely death on Wednesday — which arrived on the second day of the F8 developer conference — illustrated something Facebook knew all too well: data privacy matters to people, and acting recklessly with it could kill you.Read Article >
The company had been consumed by controversy amid revelations that it obtained data on up to 87 million Facebook users through a personality quiz app called thisisyourdigitallife created by a University of Cambridge researcher named Aleksandr Kogan. The scandal led to government hearings in both the United Kingdom and the United States, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to testify before Congress. Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, resigned after further reporting caught him discussing how to entrap politicians on behalf of clients.
May 2, 2018
After the far-reaching scandal over mishandled Facebook user data, Cambridge Analytica is shutting down.Read Article >
The news was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal. The company soon said in a press release that the affiliated United Kingdom-based company SCL Elections has filed for insolvency, and that bankruptcy proceedings will begin soon for Cambridge Analytica as well. The data analytics company’s United Kingdom-based parent organization, SCL Group, will also be shuttered, according to the Journal.
Apr 13, 2018
Facebook users have continuously worried that the social media platform’s mobile apps, including Instagram, listen in on our conversations. It’s such a widespread concern that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to address it in a congressional hearing on privacy this week, where he called the notion a “conspiracy theory.”Read Article >
I hate to break it to everyone, but as far as we can tell, Facebook’s eavesdropping is a myth. Although I understand why the myth exists. People see eerily exact, targeted ads — sometimes about things they just discussed with friends — and they have to question what’s really happening behind the scenes. How does Facebook know what I’m talking about, and why am I getting served these ads at this exact moment?
Apr 12, 2018
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA) will introduce legislation to protect the privacy of users’ online data, the pair said today in a joint statement. Though a bill has not been drafted yet, the legislation would, among other things, give users recourse options if their data is breached, and the right to opt out of data tracking and collection.Read Article >
The proposed legislation will address seven key points, the senators said:
Apr 11, 2018
This week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before members of Congress, splitting his visit into two days of questioning. There were expected queries regarding the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, about whether Facebook has grown too large and could be considered a monopoly, and how to better regulate the platform.Read Article >
Less expected were the weird and somewhat rambling moments throughout the combined 12 hours of testimony, as members of Congress grappled with the legitimately complicated technology they were questioning. At times, lawmakers relied on slightly clunky metaphors, revealing anecdotes, and corny jokes. Here are some of the oddest instances during Zuckerberg’s testimony in Washington, DC.
Apr 11, 2018
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made his second of two appearances before Congress on Wednesday, enduring a five-hour session of questions from members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In contrast to their amiably confused counterparts in the Senate, members of the House committee demonstrated a generally better command of how Facebook works and how its efforts to develop richly detailed advertising profiles for billions of people have created privacy concerns around the world.Read Article >
As with yesterday, Facebook sought to promote steps it has already taken to address the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. But House members spent less time on Cambridge Analytica in favor of asking about a broader range of subjects, including how Facebook tracks people around the web, privacy protections for minors, and Facebook’s consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce today, fresh off the heels of a grueling five-hour joint session before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees yesterday. In total, Zuckerberg will face questions from nearly 100 legislators, and many of those legislators have received thousands of dollars from the company Zuckerberg runs.Read Article >
Over the last 12 years, Facebook has spent $7 million in campaign contributions. Historically, Facebook has donated slightly more to Democrats than Republicans, but overall, the platform’s political footprint is small in Washington, DC relative to its market cap, which is currently calculated at about $400 billion. That’s not unusual for technology companies: Amazon spent $4 million in campaign contributions over 20 years, and it has a market cap of nearly $700 billion. (Note, however, that Alphabet, Inc., with a market cap just over Amazon’s, appears to be outspending Facebook in DC by an order of magnitude.)
Apr 11, 2018
The iconic moment from Mark Zuckerberg’s Senate hearing yesterday came before he faced toothless questions from profoundly uninformed senators. It happened when the Facebook boss walked to his seat and was confronted by a wall of wide-angle camera lenses and photographers jostling for position, each of them trying to capture the most distilled picture of a CEO under fire. Zuckerberg’s personal space was eroded by the heaving throng, and he was treated less as a human and more as an object of fascination.Read Article >
In that moment, Mark Zuckerberg must have felt what it was like to be a user of his online platform. Every inch of his being was subjected to close scrutiny, observation, and recording for posterity. Whether he liked it, whether he could meaningfully consent to it, or not.
Apr 11, 2018
After yesterday’s seemingly endless marathon hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today Mark Zuckerberg heads to the House, where he’ll be answering questions in front of the Energy and Commerce Committee.Read Article >
Yesterday’s session featured almost 50 legislators peppering Zuckerberg with queries about how Facebook safeguards user data, details on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and even questions about what kind of regulations Zuckerberg believes should be put in place to regulate Facebook.