Facebook To Notify Users On Cambridge Analytica Data Leak

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Facebook is to notify users if they were one of the 87 million people whose profiles were harvested by Cambridge Analytica, as it suspends another analytics firm

Facebook plans to notify its users on Monday whether they were one of the 87 million people whose data was collected by Cambridge Analytica.

The company said it would send users one of two detailed messages via their news feed at 5 p.m. BST.

About 1 million users in the UK are thought to have been affected by the scandal, in which Cambridge Analytica is accused of improperly gathering data that it used to target political campaign material in the US presidential election two years ago. The firm has denied wrongdoing.

In the US, about 70 million users are thought to have had their data collected via an app that was developed by a University of Cambridge academic.

data breach
Data warning

Facebook’s message, titled “Protecting Your Information”, is also to provide a link users can follow to find out what apps they are linked to and the information that has been collected by those apps, along with an option to shut off the apps individually or turn off all data access by the tools.

The company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is expected to give two days of testimony before the US Congress on the matter this week.

Separately, Facebook said it had suspended the account of a data analytics firm called CubeYou after a report alleged it used tactics similar to those of Cambridge Analytica, allegedly gathering information on users under an academic licence and then making it available for commercial use.

Facebook said it would investigate CubeYou following allegations published by CNBC. The company said it would permanently ban CubeYou’s apps if it refused or failed an audit, according to several reports.

The allegations involve a personality quiz called “You Are What You Like”, whose results were then offered to academics under the name Apply Magic Sauce.

Such quizzes can gather information on millions of users even if they’re used by only a few, because they’re able to  gather information on users’ contacts.

Personality quiz

CubeYou and Cambridge University both claim it was clear in the app’s terms and conditions that the data could be used for either academic or commercial purposes. CubeYou said it has always followed Facebook’s rules.

You Are What You Like was developed by CubeYou in partnership with Cambridge University’s Psychometric Centre.

“CubeYou merely designed the interface for a website that used our models to give users insight on their data,” the university said in a statement. “We have had no contact with CubeYou since June 2015.”

In a previous version of its privacy policy, CubeYou said it might collect information from a user’s social media profile including “name, mailing address, email address, telephone number, birth date, gender, areas of interest, occupation, title and other demographic information, address book list, your social media handle, your profile picture, your device settings and data, your localisation, social connections, likes, pictures and videos”.

The CubeYou website has now been edited to list fewer data categories in its user profiles, such as name, email, phone number and IP address.

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