We previously learned from The New York Times, The Guardian and The Observer where they detailed how Cambridge Analytica obtained data on around 50 million Facebook users and used it for targeted social messaging, it appears that the UK Parliament is out for some answers and they want them directly from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself.
Damian Collins of CNBC reports that the chair of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee has sent Zuckerberg a letter today requesting him to appear before the committee to discuss Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s involvement in the data acquisition. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here and here.
In the letter, Collins says that Facebook’s have repeatedly understated the risks that come along with the way companies are able to obtain and keep Facebook user data. “It is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process,” writes Collins. “There is a strong public interest test regarding user protection. Accordingly we are sure you will understand the need for a representative from right at the top of the organisation to address concerns. Given your commitment at the start of the New Year to ‘fixing’ Facebook, I hope that this representative will be you.”
Basically, a Cambridge University researcher developed a Facebook app that contained a personality test, and 270,000 took the test. Facebook’s policies allowed the app to collect as many of these test-takers’ Facebook friend as well, which is shocking. The app overall collected Facebook profile information on around 50 million users and the researcher then handed the data over to Cambridge Analytica, which is a political data analytics firm that’s under by the likes of billionaire Robert Mercer. He aimed to use the data to better target ads and content to specific individuals. Cambridge Analytica has been previously accused of using its methods during the Brexit campaign and US presidential election.
It’s not just the UK that’s seeking answers. The FTC is investigating Facebook’s use of personal data, and US Senator Ron Woden sent a letter to Zuckerberg requesting more information about this situation.