Facebook data leak: 50 million users are affected

Politicians from the United States and the United Kingdom have asked Mark Zuckerberg for explanations.

Facebook has come under immense pressure after the data of 50 millions users was leaked, allegedly, to a data firm, Cambridge Analytics, who wanted to narrow down the strategies to bargain psychologically for more votes during Donald Trump election campaign in 2016. Politicians from the US and the United Kingdom, where Facebook is being investigated for its possible role in the campaign in favour of Brexit, have asked Mark Zuckerberg for some explanations.

After the scandal broke on Saturday, based on the revelations made by The New York Times and The Observer, Democratic Senator, Amy Klobuchar, has demanded that Zuckerberg -the president of the world’s largest social network- testify before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary about the exploitation of user data to design “political advertising” and “voter manipulation” tools.

Adam Schiff, chief Democratic representative on the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence, wondered which citizen’s data the consultant has knowledge of and he proposed an in-depth investigation to be initiated. On Saturday, Attorney
General of Massachusetts Maura Healey announced the opening of the first formal investigation.

Facebook absolutely refuses to assume its responsibility. In 2014, Cambridge Analytica indirectly harvested the abundant information through a researcher from University of Cambridge, Russian-born American psychologist Alexandr Kogan, who had received permission from the social network to collect data from its users for academic purposes, but not politics. Facebook discovered the data misuse three years ago, but until last Friday Facebook did not suspend Cambridge Analytica and Kogan’s accounts. Facebook had committed not to keep personal information, previously collected, such as identities, locations and user’ “likes”.

The company, founded in the USA, but of British origin, by key figures in the Trump campaign, such as Steve Bannon or patron Robert Mercer, is still under investigation the United Kingdom for the alleged interference from the Russian espionage during the campaign in favour of Brexit.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister, Theresa May, said on Monday that a government agency had initiated an investigation into these scandal leaks for political purposes, between the United States and the United Kingdom, which he described as “highly worrying”. The chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee (House of Commons), Damian Collins, announced that he will call Zuckerberg and the Cambridge Analytica director, the British Alexander Nix, to testify. “Someone must take responsibility for this. Zuckerberg must stop hiding behind his Facebook page”, he added.

For her part, the European Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourová, announced that she will ask Facebook for clarifications. Jourová was scheduled to arrive in Washington yesterday to address data protection issues with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Although her official agenda did not originally include any meeting related to the fraudulent use of user information, this question will undoubtedly be assisting without an invitation.

“It will be terrible if it is confirmed. 50 million Facebook users’ private data could have been mismanaged and used for political purposes in such a simple way! We do not want this in the EU” criticized Jourová in a message she wrote on her Twitter account.

The European Commission, will present a digital tax this week that will affect among other companies the social network of Zuckerberg, have insisted that companies should take responsibility for the proper treatment of personal data.

The representatives of Facebook will also have to answer the questions of the MEPs. The European Parliament, the most political profile institution in UE, assured yesterday that it will investigate this case. “The misuse of data from Facebook users is an unacceptable violation of citizens’ right to privacy,” lamented Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament.

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