A foreign political organization accesses the personal data of millions of Americans in the hopes of altering their behavior and influencing a major election. It may sound like the plot of a spy novel — or at times, a science fiction novella — but the crazy part is it’s all true. And the even crazier part? It may have worked.
Here’s what you need to know about Cambridge Analytica, Mark Zuckerberg, and what on Earth happened during his Congressional testimony.
Nearly every one of us has been affected, including Zuckerberg
Before we dive into Zuckerberg's testimony, let’s take a closer look at how he wound up in the hot seat. Back in 2015, political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica discovered they could collect the personal data of millions of Americans by offering quizzes on Facebook. In addition to stealing the personal data of every quiz taker, they were also able to exploit a loophole in Facebook’s API that allowed them to steal the personal data of each quiz taker’s friend.
News outlets report that between 50 and 87 million Americans, including Mark Zuckerberg, had their personal data compromised. While that number may seem staggering — and it is — it pales in comparison to how many users may have had their data compromised via a simple search function.
Just days after the Cambridge Analytica revelation, Zuckerberg announced that the majority of Facebook users likely had their personal data compromised if they didn’t disable a feature that allowed users to find them by searching email addresses. This setting, which has since been eliminated, was automatically set to “on.”
Changes may be coming to your messages
There have been several small updates to Messenger over the past few months, and it appears more are on the way. Specifically, Zuckerberg stated that users will have the ability to “unsend” Facebook messages. This revelation comes after criticism that the tech giant deleted Facebook executives’ messages from recipient inboxes while not allowing other users to do so.
Reportedly, Zuckerberg will not be using this feature until it’s available for all users.
Despite Legislature’s lack of knowledge, regulation likely
Based on Zuckerberg’s adventures in Congressional testimony, it seems that many of the 44 senators who grilled him would like to regulate Facebook, and eventually, the rest of the internet. When asked about potential regulation, Zuckerberg responded:
“...My position is not that there should be no regulation. I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people's lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be or not.”
Who will determine that regulation might also be called into question, as senators repeatedly illustrated their poor understanding of how Facebook — and to a larger extent, the entire internet — works. You can watch a condensed version of their mishaps, just be prepared to laugh … and then cry ... and maybe laugh again?
It’s up to you to protect your privacy
If there is one thing the hearings showed us, it’s that we cannot depend on anyone — including our own government — to protect us from the risks posed in our digital age. It’s up to each one of us to protect ourselves and our families by making wise decisions both online and off.For more information on how you can make this a reality, visit our blog, Drop the Mic: Protect Your Privacy on Facebook.