Facebook data misuse scandal, what happened? — a timeline!

If you have been on the internet for the past couple of months, or seen any type of news medium (pun intended), you must have certainly heard about the Facebook data misuse scandal. If you are confused about the whole situation, here is a brief timeline to clear things up for you;

In 2010, Facebook implemented the “Open Graph API”, which gave developers of third party apps the right to request users’ information such as; name, gender, location, birthday etc…, as well as their friends’, from Facebook. Its purpose was to make user’s experience more personalized.

In 2013, a Cambridge university professor, Aleksandr Kogan, developed a Personality Quiz App. Kogan operated it through Facebook’s third party system (Open Graph API) and had people complete the quiz by signing in to their Facebook accounts against a small fee. The 270,000 participants who downloaded the app did not only hand in their data but also gave Kogan permission to access their friends’. This resulted in Kogan being in possession of tens of millions of data about Facebook users, which was to be used for “research purposes”.

In 2015, the Guardian reported that Ted Cruz used voters’ psychological data for his campaign. Cambridge analytica, a behavioral microtrageting company, was at the centre of this report. The company helped the senator learn about his target audience and ways on how to effectively reach them. The data used by the company was revealed to have been bought from Professor Kogan. Facebook learnt about this “misuse” and pressured the firm to delete the data.

In 2016, Cambridge analytica switched to Trump’s campaign. The company started to invest heavily in Facebook target advertising and played a big role in the creation of communication messages of the campaign.

In March 2018, the Guardian and the New York Times report that Cambridge Analytica has data about 50 million Facebook users. Facebook banned involved parties form using its platform and opened an ongoing investigation on 200 apps suspected of data misuse. Zuckerberg agreed to make an appearance in front of the congress for a two day hearing.

These are the main events that happened related to the Facebook data misuse scandal. If you are wondering what is so concerning about all this, stay tuned to my next blog post!

    Written by

    This blog is part of a synoptic project for a final year Communications student at the University of Malta.

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