There is a lot to Learn from the Latest Facebook Data Scandal

Mark Zuckerberg took out full page adverts in nine major British and US newspapers on Sunday to apologise for a data privacy scandal making headlines in the past week. He said it is the responsibility of the social network to protect information of its users. “If we can’t we don’t deserve it,” he added.

A Buried Data Breach

Zuckerberg explained that back in 2014 there was a quiz developed by a university researcher that “leaked Facebook data of millions of people,” stated that it was a breach of trust, and that Facebook are now taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

This advert reflects public statements made by Zuckerberg made last week following the row prompted investigations in Europe and the United States, sending Facebook’s share price down dramatically.

He reiterated that the social media giant had changed rules on apps so that no such data breach could happen again. “We’re also investigating every single app that had access to large amounts of data before we fixed this. We expect there are others,” he wrote. “And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected.”

Who’s to Blame?

Zuckerberg failed to mention Cambridge Analytics, the British firm accused of using the data, who also blamed Aleksandr Kogan for any potential breach of data rules after he created a lifestyle quiz app for Facebook which was downloaded by 270,000 people, while also allowing access to tens of millions of their contacts. Facebook claim he passed this to Cambridge Analytica without its knowledge, but Kogan says he is being made a scapegoat.

Ars Technica highlighted a tweet from Dylan McKay, an individual from New Zealand, who posted a picture of his call history with this partner’s mother that had been collected by Facebook. On Sunday, the social network responded to this saying that this was done with the users’ permission, something which is a common issue with many Facebook users.

How to Avoid a Data Breach

Apps are downloaded and given permission to collect information from people without a second thought. The good thing about this scandal is that people are prompted to get smarter about their online footprint. Users should be checking what data services have access to. Of course it’s not just Facebook people need to think about. Many big technology firms are in the business of collecting data which is central to their business models.

The responsibility isn’t just that of the users. Big tech companies need to step up. When a user signs up for a service or downloads an app, all data collected and how the firm aims to use it must be clearly stated, and they must be more responsible in the way they word messages asking for consent. It must also be easy for the user to change how their data is accessed.


Taking control of data has never been more important. Mark Zuckerberg has previously discussed the potential of machine learning and artificial intelligence, a possible scary technology that can read and use data in innovative ways.

With such a prospect ahead, it should be a high priority for users to understand their online life and to restrict it where necessary. And with GDPR changes coming into place at the end of May, companies should be adapting how they get hold of personal information of users in order to comply with legislation. This means clear indication where consent is needed, as well as only taking data that is relevant to the service in question.

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