And just when you thought it could not get any worse, it did. Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in front of Congress last week likely didn’t do much to pacify any angry mobs, nor did it provide much in the way of actual answers.
In fact, it led to even more questions from a lot of people, many of whom still have a hard time trusting the social media giant. Turns out that was not only reasonable but completely warranted.
As we are now learning, the Cambridge Analytica breach involved more than the estimated 87 million users impacted by the “This Is Your Digital Life” app. No, according to a whistleblower, that was just the tip of the iceberg.
The rabbit hole runs deep
Her name is Brittany Kaiser, and as a former Business Development Director for Cambridge Analytica, she had a unique perspective. And, in testimony to Britain’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, she said there were more apps and more people involved than has been reported.
She said there were multiple apps used to help gather information, specifically noting one called “Sex Compass.” Like the others, it required a Facebook login and led to data being collected.
Kaiser admitted she does not know just how many more people were part of the breach, nor does she know all the specifics. Just, in her role, she understood there to be a “wide range of surveys” that were used to gather information that could then be used for a variety of reasons.
Of course, this is all just one person’s testimony and is in no way verified fact. However, it’s not at all difficult to believe more people’s accounts were impacted. With nearly 2 billion people using Facebook, with 214 million residing in the United States, it stands to reason this will all get worse before it gets better.
Remember, you don’t even need to be on Facebook to be tracked
Diving into the idea of Facebook and privacy (if that’s even a real thing) has revealed far more than anyone realized. For instance, we now understand that you do not even have to be a Facebook user or on the site itself to be tracked.
Known as “Shadow Profiles,” they are files Facebook has on people who do not have accounts. The information is gathered through other sites that are linked to Facebook, usually with share buttons or other ways to log in.
Disconcerting as that is, Facebook maintains they are doing nothing out of the ordinary for other, similar companies. A blog post by David Baser, Facebook’s Product Management Director, went over what kind of data is collected and provided information on the how and why.
He wrote that many websites use Facebook services to make their own content and ads more relevant. That includes social plugins, like the “like” or “share” buttons you will see on many sites, as well as the ability to log into the site via a Facebook account.
There are also sites that use Facebook Analytics, which Baser says is to help them better understand how people use their services, as well as Facebook ads and measurement tools, which are meant to provide information on the effectiveness of ads.
Whether you are OK with that all or not, Baser wrote that many other companies, like Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn have similar like and share buttons, while Google runs analytics. He added that Amazon, Google and Twitter all have login features, too.
In other words, he’s saying Facebook is not alone in its overall reach.
As for what Facebook collects…
Baser continued, saying apps and sites that use Facebook services send them information to make their content and ads better. As for the data Facebook collects, he said it was important to make it clear that it is never sold. “Period.”
That said, he tried to explain what kind of data they collect:
- Social plugins and Facebook logins are used to gather data on your browser or operating system as well as the address of the site or app you are using in order to make the features work.
- Facebook Analytics provide websites with data about how they are used and by whom.
- The Facebook Audience Network is for ads. It allows other sites and apps to display marketing from Facebook advertisers.
- Ad Measurement is done so that advertisers can see how many people are responding to their ads.
As for keeping all that data secure, Baser wrote that much of what they collect from websites and apps actually help in that regard, because the data they receive can be looked into to identify any bad actors. For instance, if someone is trying to access your account with an IP address from another country, they might ask some questions to verify that it is you.
Facebook will also look to see if a browser has visited hundreds of sites within a short span. If so, that could be a sign that it is a bot and will then be asked to prove it is a real person by completing additional security checks.
The other reason behind data collection, Baser wrote, is to improve your Facebook experience. For example, he pointed out if you tend to visit a lot of sports sites that use Facebook services, you will likely see sports-related stories higher up in your News Feed. The same goes for travel sites or anything else.
Does all that work for you?
As has been the case for weeks now, these revelations leave us all with a few different options. Facebook has tried to promote various new security settings, giving us better control over what is and is not learned about us.
What’s in store for Facebook?
Facebook’s scandal gets worse as more details emerge about how they tracked you like you never knew before. Kim talked to some of the leading technology and data breach attorneys, John Yanchunis and Steven Teppler, about what’s in store for Facebook and also what we can do to protect ourselves in this age of dwindling privacy.
Click the play button to hear why it’s become clear that your information is the currency of the 21st century.
Speaking of Facebook, what would life be like without it?
Kim Komando and Andrew Babinski had a little fun in the studio showing what life would be like without Facebook. Click here to get in on it.