Hot on the heels of the exposed Facebook data ‘theft’ by company Cambridge Analytica is a movement encouraging Facebook users to close their accounts.
Cambridge Analytica is a data mining company that has been implicated in many odious schemes where data has been misused. These allegations include involvement in manipulation techniques during the Brexit referendum, numerous Kenyan political events and now, micro-targeting in the US elections. By using the information gained from Facebook users, campaign offices were able to create designer campaigns that involved exactly the right speeches, on exactly the right topics, as per information garnered from Facebook about what was important to people now.
This comes at a time when so much of our lives are managed digitally, and we do everything from sending emails to storing banking details and playing online slots on our desktops or mobile devices. For this reason, the question of how safe user’s data is has become a major concern, even pre the Facebook breach.
What Does Facebook Do with Your Data?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has come forward with statements and press releases stating that the company is investigating, and will be taking action to better ensure the security of its user’s data. But for now, users must consider a few things. As a Facebook user you are giving strangers access to your information by publishing it on a public platform. That is the cost of using Facebook, and similar platforms that have no real money charge. Your information is collected, stripped of identifying data and sold to advertisers. That is how Facebook can offer you a free platform. Facebook does disclose all this information up front when users sign up, but what Cambridge Analytica did went against Facebook’s terms of service.
People are scared of becoming victims of fraud and of having their details stolen, there are also safety concerns about loved ones should the wrong type of person access home addresses, and worries about money losses through identity theft’; plus no-one wants to hear that they were manipulated. There is a trust that users give companies like Facebook when they join their sites, a belief that the company itself will keep the data safe. The same trust that Facebook puts into organisations like Cambridge Analytica, that they will honour the SLA, and not do anything on the site that would negatively affect the user, and therefor Zuckerberg’s business.
Did Facebook Somehow Fail to Protect Its Users?
Theoretically, no. Facebook have numerous measures in place to ensure data security, including informing users when they are allowing a third-party application to access their personal information. Facebook specifies exactly which data users you are allowing access to, and have a function that allows users to limit third party app access. Thus, putting control of who does, and does not, access personal data squarely in the hands of the user. That means the user information that was collected by Cambridge Analytica, was given by free will by every person who participated in the quiz.
Why then the push to #DeleteFacebook?
What people are asking now is, how safe is my data? And the answer to that question is, safe, or rather as safe as it would be on any other social media platform.
The Facebook Platform has many built in features to protect your data, including as mentioned, a notification if you are going to allow access to an unknown party. Facebook uses Secure Socket Layer technology on all user data when it’s being transferred. This means that when you ‘upload’ your log in credentials or use the chat facility the information you are entering is encrypted.
The servers where your data is stored also have security features like software that tracks and stops hackers from accessing user data, whether to snoop or for more nefarious reasons and anti-virus programmes to protect users from becoming victims of Trojans and Anti-Spyware. The Facebook servers are as secure as they come, considering the sheer volume of user data that they protect.
It seems then that users need to be more careful when it comes to allowing access to data. There are certain things like passwords which users have full control over, which need to be protected and sufficiently secure. Users need to educate themselves about scams and fraud techniques, and read the Facebook pop-ups and terms and conditions.
The data breach in this case was almost a case of no-fault of either party, and the #deleteFacebook movement was very much a knee jerk reaction. Many people may opt to leave the social media site initially, but as past experience shows, they will either return, or find that other platforms have just as many, if not more issues.