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Facebook under fire for its role in Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook in hot soup; Cambridge Analytica claims credit for Barisan Nasional 2013 election success 

Cambridge Analytica, which was instrumental in US President Donald Trumps’s election campaign, received international attention after the firm was accused of misusing millions of user data from Facebook for political purposes.

So what did Cambridge Analytica actually do? The firm actually harvested information from over 50 million Facebook users through an external application in 2015.  The data came from a personality quiz, which around 270,000 people were paid to take. The quiz “thisisyourdigitallife” in turn pulled data from their friends’ profiles as well, ending in the enormous data stash.

This data revealed personal information where users lived and what pages they liked, which helped build psychological profiles that analysed characteristics and personality traits. This kind of information was later deployed in political campaigns. Trump’s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 to help target ads using voter data gathered from millions of adults in the US.

Former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden tweeted that “Businesses that make money by collecting and selling detailed records of private lives were once plainly described as ‘surveillance companies.” “Their rebranding as ‘social media’ is the most successful deception since the Department of War became the Department of Defense.”

Following this news, Facebook’s stock was the worst performing in the S&P 500 on Monday, posting its biggest one-day decline since March 2014. It had declined 6.8% on Monday. Heath Terry, the lead internet research analyst at Goldman Sachs, told CNBC that how Facebook manages through this situation will determine the social media giant’s future.

According to The Verge, Facebook scheduled an open meeting to all employees on Tuesday to let them ask questions regarding the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. The meeting will be by Paul Grewal, the company’s deputy general counsel is expected to explain the background of the case and to take questions via a polling feature. However, Mark Zuckerberg was not present at this meeting.

Facebook has also made a statement about what Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are doing. “Mark, Sheryl and their teams are working around the clock to get all the facts and take the appropriate action moving forward because they understand the seriousness of this issue,” Facebook told The Daily Beast. “The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens.”

Cambridge Analytica head Alexander Nix has now been suspended by the company board.

Co-founder of social messaging app WhatsApp, Brian Acton told his followers to delete Facebook.

Cambridge Analytica is also said to have provided services to Barisan Nasional in Kedah during the last general election. Cambridge Analytica’s website showcased studies of its work managing political campaigns around the world. It states that the firm “supported Barisan Nasional (BN) in Kedah State with a targeted messaging campaign highlighting their school improvements since 2008.”

Cambridge Analytica’s website

“BN won Kedah back from Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election and walked away from a successful campaign.

“With wins in 21 out of 36 state seats and 10 out of the 15 parliamentary seats in the state, BN enjoyed a landslide victory,” Cambridge Analytica boasted on its website.

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