What It Means for Content Marketers
Although the data breach has been widely reported on, it instigated a wide scale boycott of the social media platform. It even prompted a congressional hearing. But many of us are still unclear exactly what happened, who was involved, and how it affects us.
Here’s the shorter version:
In 2014, University of Cambridge Researcher Aleksandr Kogan developed a Facebook quiz app called This Is Your Digital Life. When an estimated 270,000 users installed the app, they agreed to share their user data for academic purposes, including browsing habits, posts and likes.
Kogan shared that data with Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm.
This may or may not have violated Facebook’s policies, depending on who you ask. Facebook alleges it did, as user data gleaned from apps is only meant to be shared for academic purposes. Kogan asserts that many types of data sharing are industry commonplace and any violation of Facebook’s policy occurred unbeknownst to him.
Once Cambridge Analytica acquired the data, they exploited a feature of Facebook’s API (a software that lets developers like Kogan create apps) to gain access to the information of around 50,000,000 completely unsuspecting Facebook users.
Cambridge Analytica then began using that data for financial gain as it worked on the campaign of Texas senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz.
When The Guardian published a December 2015 exposé revealing Cambridge Analytica was using the data of completely oblivious Facebook users to help politicians better target voters, Facebook demanded that they destroy the data, as its acquisition and dissemination jointly violated Facebook’s user terms and conditions.
Cambridge Analytica did not completely destroy the data, however, and Facebook did not look into the issue much further, nor did they inform those whose data may have been harvested.
Instead, the user data eventually made its way into the hands of the winning Trump campaign (although it’s unclear how much it helped Trump to secure the presidency if it helped at all—most accounts suggest the data may have only had limited usefulness).
For a more in-depth view into this topic, read Big Data and the Consumer Post Cambridge Analytica.
About Hayden Sammak
Hayden has been a key contributor to the Stratabytes blog since 2016. A college student at Temple University, he brings powerful insights to the millennial generation’s reaction to current events, as well as marketing, social media and advertising trends. When he’s not providing Tips & Tricks to our blog readers, Hayden enjoys cooking and spends much of his free time reading. He is also an avid fly-fisherman and all-around outdoor enthusiast. He is currently pursuing his undergrad degree in English.