Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: Is Your Data Exposed?

Cambridge Analytica Facebook data

Facebook is under fire for enabling a company called Cambridge Analytica to obtain information about more than 80 million Facebook users. Until recently there was no way to know if your data was included. Now there is. Here’s how to find out.

FAcebook Played Fast and loose

It’s no secret that social media was manipulated to influence public opinion in the 2016 election. As investigations continue, one company’s involvement has gotten a lot of public scrutiny. Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based political consulting firm, acquired Facebook user data it shouldn’t have. They paid for that data from a researcher named Aleksandr Kogan, who developed a quiz app called “This Is Your Digital Life,” used by hundreds of thousands of Facebook users.

Facebook played fast and loose with user data security until recently. When Kogan released his app in 2014, things were different. Kogan’s app not only obtained information about its own users, but it also hoovered up publicly available data from their friends. Facebook says it has no way of knowing exactly how many people have been affected, but it has pegged the upper limit at about 87 million people.

Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg are under intense public scrutiny to improve its user security.. The company has – finally – introduced a web page that at least lets you see if your information was compromised. If you’d like to check for yourself, point your web browser to this page to find out for sure.

You are THE product

I, for one, didn’t use the app, but it’s apparent that one of my Facebook friends did. I strongly recommend that you check your security settings to lock out any apps or services you don’t use. (The page above links to your settings to make it easier to do so.) I also strongly recommend you stop taking quizzes on Facebook.

In fact, I strongly recommend you take a long, hard look at how you’re using Facebook and other social media. As it’s been said over and over again, if you’re not paying for something you use, chances are, you’re the product. Facebook makes money by selling ads. It does that by compiling information about you. Cambridge Analytica aside, we’re giving up tons of private information about ourselves every day, the more we use these things.

The Cambridge Analytica story is still in motion. It’ll likely be some time before we know what users’ recourse for this violation will be. What’s clear is that now, more than ever, we all need to be hypervigilant about how our data is collected and used by the social media services on which we depend. And perhaps a bit more circumspect about what sort of services we use, at all.

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