The Cambridge Analytica scandal, or what has been termed as #FacebookGate, just got a new chapter added to its odyssey. In a report where Facebook was updating users on their plans to restrict data access on the social platform, they also revealed that up to 87 million people globally have had their information shared improperly with Cambridge Analytica. Of that 87 million, around 5.6 million users were Indian.
The blog post by Mike Schroepfer, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Facebook, shared a graph of the country-specific break-up of users that have been affected by the data breach. Indian users only comprise 0.7% of the total, whereas over 70 million users in the United States were exploited.
In an attempt to correct the problem, Schroepfer wrote of nine changes that Facebook will be making to better protect information about Facebook users. One of them is that the events API will see more strict regulations including the fact that third-party apps will no longer be able to access the guest lists for an event or view posts on the event wall.
The Groups API will also be seeing some changes. It’s going to roll back access from third-party apps of viewing member lists of groups and removing posts that have any personal information attached to them.
The more dramatic change is, of course, the announcement that Facebook will be shutting down Partner Categories. A shift that’s more pertinent for regular users is probably the fact that the social platform is going to no longer allow people to search for friends using their email address or phone numbers.
Schroepfer wrote, “People will also be able to remove apps that they no longer want. As part of this process, we will also tell people if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.”
After Christopher Wylie’s disclosure of how Cambridge Analytica has conducted election research through the SCL Group, the scandal officially became personal for Indian Facebook users. Wylie even said, “This is what modern colonialism looks like.”
I’ve been getting a lot of requests from Indian journalists, so here are some of SCL’s past projects in India. To the most frequently asked question – yes SCL/CA works in India and has offices there. This is what modern colonialism looks like. pic.twitter.com/v8tOmcmy3zMarch 28, 2018
According to his tweet, SCL helped some political parties identify and target key groups within the population so that they could “effectively influence their behavior to realise a desired outcome”.
With the Indian elections around the corner, political parties will have to be more wary of how they manage their PR campaigns and conduct research on vote banks. The same freedom of information that gives them their data, is the very thing that exposes their scandals as well. Technology and its application are a double-edged sword if not used responsibly.