People are finally starting to wake up to the fact that they’re putting a lot of data on the internet and, once it’s out there, they don’t have a lot of control over it. This realization comes with glaring concerns about identity theft and other cyber crimes, as well as the risk of stalking. By putting a lot of small details together, you can build up a pretty detailed picture of someone. So ongoing complaints that Facebook is sharing private data with a variety of businesses has a lot of people wondering what’s going on. Is it true, though? Did everyone’s favorite annoying app really hand out data to businesses?
- Facebook holds a lot of data. It has over 2.2 billion active users – people who log in at least once a month – and all of them have input at least some personal information. The basics are a name and email address – but many have added phone numbers, employers, locations, favorite movies, groups or brands, political opinions and a lot more. Add that to the links between users and it’s a mass of valuable data.
- Data gets aggregated – collated and stored in a way that makes it more useful. All a person’s connections and preferences are linked to their personal data, and it can all be searched. Want to find out who listen to Beyonce, shops at Walmart or likes Bernie Sanders’s comments? You can do that.
- This data is very valuable for businesses – and Facebook knew that from the start. They also made it easy for other companies to create apps that would run on Facebook and collect user data. Since users started signing up, making money off their data has been part of the company’s business model. That included giving makers of electronic devices access to their database, but the worst examples were through apps.
- Last March, it emerged that an app running on Facebook had collected data from about 87 million users – and passed most of it on to Cambridge Analytica, a voter profiling company that worked for the 2016 Trump campaign.
- When this came out, Facebook claimed they’d tightened the rules on apps since 2014; opponents said they hadn’t done enough, and Facebook admit they still have over 60 “data partnerships” running.
So, did Facebook share private data? Yes, they did. There are discussions to be had about whether they had a right to do that or not, but there’s no question that they did it.