Data Analytics, App Developers, and Facebook’s Role in Data Misuse

Facebook has come under increased scrutiny in recent months,  the social media giant’s efforts to protect its users’ data questioned. Now, it has come to light that Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company that has been credited with playing a role in the Leave campaign for Britain’s EU membership referendum and in the digital operations of Donald Trump’s election campaign, was given access to the personal information of millions of Facebook users through an independent app developer. How is the data collected by Facebook and its app developers used? Is it protected sufficiently?  In the discussion that follows, Daphne Keller, Director of Intermediary Liability at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, discusses these issues.

Can you help us to understand the role of Global Science Research (GSR), a development company that allegedly harvested tens of millions of Facebook profiles and provided the data to Cambridge Analytica?

The reporting on this keeps evolving, but here is what I think we know as of now. GSR built a Facebook quiz app, and some 270,000 FB users installed it. Some were paid to do so. Like most Facebook (FB) apps, it collected information from people who installed it. And, like many FB apps, it collected far more information than would seem to be necessary for the app’s purpose or utility to the user. This included not only information about the user who installed it, but information about his or her FB friends (FB has since limited apps’ ability to collect that info). It was supposedly this info about friends that brought the number of affected people up to a reported 50 million.

Read the full interview at the SLS Legal Aggregate Blog