Facebook’s troubles continue to grow: What you need to know. The social network is under fire for how it collects user data. Here’s a look at the biggest scandals that have rocked the social media giant. Data breaches, bugs and misuse- Cambridge Analytica – The scandal that kicked it all off was Cambridge Analytica. In March, a joint investigation by The New York Times, the Guardian and the Observer revealed that a UK-based consultancy with ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had misused the data of tens of thousands of Facebook’s more than 2 billion users.
The trail allegedly leads back to a Cambridge professor named Aleksandr Kogan, who created an app called “thisisyourdigitallife,” a personality quiz that was billed as “a research app used by psychologists.” He legitimately gained access to information on 270,000 accounts through Facebook’s Login feature, which lets people use their Facebook account to log in to outside apps so they don’t have to create new usernames and passwords. But he broke Facebook’s rules by sharing the data with Cambridge Analytica.
The investigative report set off a firestorm over how Facebook handles people’s personal information. What made it worse: Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg remained silent for days before commenting on the scandal. Eventually, Facebook admitted that the scope of the problem was larger than once thought. It was originally reported that the incident affected 50 million users. Turns out it was 87 million. Facebook later built a tool to let people know if their data had been accessed.
‘View as’ data breach-
As if that wasn’t enough, Facebook in September disclosed a breach that affected 50 million people on the social network. The vulnerability stemmed from Facebook’s “view as” feature, which lets people see what their profiles look like to other people. Attackers exploited code associated with the feature and were able to steal “access tokens” they could use to take over people’s accounts. Though access tokens aren’t your password, they let people log in to accounts without needing it.
Two weeks later, Facebook said the data of 29 million people had been stolen, including names, email addresses and phone numbers. For 14 million of the people, hackers also nabbed birth date, hometown and workplace, along with most-recent searches or places the people had checked in to on the social network.
On Dec. 14, Facebook disclosed its latest breach. A bug on the social network exposed 6.8 million people’s photos to outside developers. The developers could see the photos if users uploaded them to the social network, even if the users didn’t actually post them.
Data-sharing deals –
Facebook’s problems didn’t stop there. On Dec. 18, the Times reported on how much user data Facebook provided to some of its partners. Netflix, Spotify and the Royal Bank of Canada could read users’ private messages, the Times said. Microsoft could reportedly see the names of all the friends tied to a Facebook user without that user’s permission. And Amazon reportedly had the ability to view users’ names and contact information through their friends.
The list went on. Yahoo could read the real-time feeds of friends’ posts. Apple could access the calendar entries and contact numbers of people who disabled all sharing through their accounts. Even the Times had access to a users’ friends list as part of an article-sharing app it shut down in 2011.
The deals, which helped more than 150 companies, dated back to 2010 but were still active in 2017.
The tech firm may have violated a 2011 agreement it had with the Federal Trade Commission to protect user data. The “consent decree” barred Facebook from sharing user data with third parties without their permission. Facebook, though, argues its data partnerships were exempted from the consent decree but former FTC and officials told the Times it disagreed with that interpretation.
Leadership and culture woes
A leadership shake-up-
Meanwhile, founders at companies owned by Facebook continued to head for the exit amid tensions with Zuckerberg and the parent company. That included WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum; Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom and Chief Technical Officer Mike Krieger; and Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe.
WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who left Facebook last year, not only urged the public to #DeleteFacebook but later also told Forbes he sold his users’ privacy.
Internally, Facebook tried to assure its employees it tolerated diverse political views, including from conservatives. Facebook pushed back against a report that it fired Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, who donated $10,000 to an anti-Hillary Clinton group during the 2016 presidential election, for his political views.