Facebook is under fire related with concerns about security of personal information stored, after the outbreak of news about illegal data mining of 87 million users. Facebook stock has lost $60 billion in value, and everyday more users are concerned about their privacy.
For the ones who want to understand what is going on in simple terms, here’s a small summary of the main issues concerning Facebook privacy:
Is Facebook hacked?
No. At least not in the way we normally call a hacked website. Nobody forcefully break into Facebook servers and steal personal data. What happened was that a third-party personality analysis app called “thisisyourdigitallife” made use of some loose privacy practice inside the Facebook API to collect information about friends of the users who have installed the app. These users were asked to install the app and fill in an online psychological survey and in return were paid $1-2 through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service.
Why people are angry?
Around 250,000 people actually installed the app. But the app also gathered data on those users’ friends. This means the vast majority of users who had their data stolen never authorized the app to access their accounts.
Yet this is not the only reason why people are annoyed.
Facebook discovered the misuse of data in 2015, and asked the developer company to delete the collected data. And until recently, they thought the data was deleted. They eventually suspended the app and its developer for misconduct, however, failed to disclose the situation to public and tried to keep it hidden. Things break loose, when a hidden camera footage of executives of a political consultancy company called Cambridge Analytica talking about how effectively they have targeted campaigns on Facebook during the elections in the US, and Brexit in the UK.
Is Facebook safe now?
Yes. At least as much as it can be. The company is putting huge effort to make their platform safer everyday. The API mentioned earlier was shut down in 2014, and since then Facebook does not allow third-party apps to gather data from friends of users. As of today, they are conducting an audit of apps before 2014. They have also changed the privacy settings control to make it more efficient.
Is it still meaningful to advertise on Facebook?
Yes. Although many famous and distinguished figures like Elon Musk or Brian Acton (co-founder of Whatsapp) are suggesting and urging people to delete their Facebook account, it’s unlikely that a major shift will occur any soon. One-third of the planet is still on Facebook, and it’s still the highest ranked social media platform. As the main income of Facebook comes from its advertising platform, it’s reasonable to expect Facebook will take swift and drastic action to restore its reputation.