In 2014, approximately 300,000 individuals were compensated to take part in psychological surveys meant to provide revealing data about the possible course of the 2016 presidential election. However, tens of millions did not see a dime. Why? Well, they had no idea. Aleksandr Kogan, the head researcher, took information not only from the people paid to download his application and complete the surveys, but their friends and family too.
Word began to spread in March of 2018 that the English data-mining firm that hired Kogan, Cambridge Analytica, had gotten ahold of 87 million Facebook user profiles without any consent.
Did Facebook know anything about this? Here is where things get a little fuzzy. Yes, Facebook knew. The social media giant allows outside developers to construct and run their applications through the platform. So, when Kogan presented his “This Is Your Digital Life” application, Facebook gave the go ahead. In doing so, Kogan was granted permission to collect data on friends of paid participants if their Facebook privacy settings made it accessible.
So, why the drama? It sounds like Kogan had all the permission he needed, right? Kogan believes so, especially since his terms authorized commercial use. Facebook on the other hand, claims Kogan lied by handing the information he gathered over to Cambridge Analytica. In 2015, after recognizing the gravity of the situation, Facebook quietly demanded all the data received through Kogan’s application be destroyed. It’s now 2018 and the New York Times for one thinks Cambridge Analytica is still playing finders keepers. In response, the data firm has been adamant that any and all information from Kogan has been deleted. Meanwhile, Facebook isn’t even sure what they have.
Facebook users are not happy. Investors are not happy. Congress is not happy. And Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO has not been exactly handling the scandal with much grace. People have gone so far as to deem him robotic or socially inept, mocking his halfhearted interviews and awkward congressional testimonies.
In any business, reputation matters. When you’re in the business of ensuring personal data is kept private, it may matter even more. Facebook has broken the trust of its users, supporters, even the government, and has got the numbers to show for it. Initially after the Times broke the story earlier this year, Facebook’s stock fell 18 percent in the immediate ten days following. Fast forward to the present, well about two weeks ago, on July 26, Facebook’s stock took an even bigger dive. The company lost 120 billion dollars in one hour, making it the biggest single day market-cap loss in the history of the US stock market.
Now, what’s the most important thing to have in a relationship? I’m going to go with trust, and I think millions would agree.