Facebook: Data Breach

By Evelyn Donatelli

Is the Facebook ($FB) data breach of 2017 a lesson in idealism? Facebook has lost $100BN in market value (from ~$560 billion market cap in February of 2018 to ~$460BN current) following the discovery of a data breach affecting 87M people. Zuckerberg’s (CEO) statement on the breach included the following: “We’re an idealistic and optimistic company. For the first decade, we really focused on all the good that connecting people brings...But it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough. We didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools to do harm as well.” Zuckerberg specified that these negative uses for which Facebook was underprepared include “fake news, foreign interference in elections, hate speech, in addition to developers and data privacy”, and calls these oversight a “huge mistake.”

What can be learned from Facebook’s loss in value and from the violation of millions of peoples’ privacy? Facebook is taking immediate action not to repeat the same mistakes that have cost the company thus far. The initial misuse of information was by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm which combines data mining, brokerage and analysis to improve strategic political communications, and whose parent company is Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), is a government and military contractor. As of Friday, April 6, Facebook suspended Canadian political consultancy AggregateIQ from its platform, in order to avoid a similar misuse of data as in the CA scandal, after reports that AggregateIQ is also affiliated with SCL.

In the cases of both Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ, an overt political motive drove the misuse of personal data on the Facebook platform, Cambridge Analytica was employed by the Trump 2016 US Campaign, and AggregateIQ by a pro-Brexit campaign group before the 2016 referendum.