Facebook is facing major backlash after reports were made that user data was harvested for political purposes. The New York Times and UK Media reported that more than 50 million profiles were used by Cambridge Analytica, who was working on developing techniques that could be used to influence voters. This began when Cambridge professor, Aleksandr Kogan, harvested user data by having users download an app, “thisisyourdigitallife”, through their Facebook accounts. The app offered a personality test, but also gave permission for Kogan to collect user data. This was all allowed under the Facebook terms of use. However, Kogan later then presented the data to Cambridge Analytica, without the express consent of Facebook, breaching the social media platforms terms of use. Facebook became aware of this breach and asked Cambridge Analytica to dispose if the data, but after reports emerged, it became clear that the institution kept some of the data collected by Kogan.

Cambridge Analytica, which provided services to the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, stated that the information collected by Kogan was not used in the services it provided to now President Donald Trump. It has also agreed to a digital forensic audit following the reports. The biggest issue in this story is how user data is being kept safe. This was a major privacy breach that left over 50 million people across the globe exposed. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are now potentially facing investigations from the US, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. This will also give a major blow to Facebook’s business model, which is built around selling user data to app developers and advertisers. More and more now businesses are moving to digital platforms. Client information is now stored digitally, from emails to social security numbers. This information has value but can also make people vulnerable. There is an expectation from users that when they provide detailed personal information to an institution, that their privacy will be kept safe. A breach of this size from Facebook, following the breach at Equifax that resulted in the credit information of millions of Americans being stolen is showing now that digital information is not being kept safe. Following the breach, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook told CNN that they were changing their business practices to limit the information that is available to app developers moving forward, and he stated that the company has plans to thoroughly investigate every client that had access to information to see whether there are more institutions like Cambridge Analytica that held on to user data after their allotted use. Users have a false sense of security when they put their lives online, and companies are not in the position to keep that data and their users’ privacy safe. Following these major breaches there is going to be a push towards increasing online security. Businesses have to be open to keeping their client/customer information safer online and have to make major changes in order to increase their online security. A breach like this will not just deprive a company of a major asset, it can lead to a loss of sales, and hurt their client/customer loyalty. We are amid a new digital age, and technology is evolving rapidly. Companies will have to beef up security and evolve with the market if they are to keep user data safe and keep major breaches like this one from happening again.