Facebook Data Scandal and Political Electioneering In Africa: What Went Wrong?

Facebook Data Scandal and Political Electioneering in Africa

The Social Media giant, Facebook, has always made users of the platform to believe that their data were safe. However, a recent scandal within the tech company by Cambridge Analytica, reveals pretty much the opposite. The Facebook Data scandal shows that politicians across the world may have been using the private data of Facebook subscribers for political electioneering. Countries particularly involved include the UK, USA, Kenya and Nigeria.

According to Cambridge Analytica, the Facebook data of millions of people have been exploited over the years and used for electioneering purposes. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has also revealed that tens of millions more people might have been exposed in this scandal.  Zuckerberg notes that privacy concerns may be deeper than previously thought.  The social media giant has however, promised to restrict the data it allows outsiders to access on it users.

Cambridge Analytica and the Facebook leak?

Cambridge Analytica is a London-based company  set up in 2013. It is a product of a spin-off project from parent company, SCL Group. This company’s goal is to help businesses and political groups “change audience behaviour”.

They muster up data on voters through their internet use. This data is then analyzed and packaged so that political spin doctors can create more effective slogans and campaign messages. It collects data from sources including social media platforms like Facebook. However, this has remained a secret for few decades, within the company until an internal whistleblower, Christopher Wylie made it public.

“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles,” Christopher said.

How Cambridge Analytica Obtained Facebook Data?

In 2015, a Cambridge psychology professor, Aleksandr Kogan, built an app called “this is your digital life”. The app was a personality test that asked Facebook users to provide information about themselves. Through his company, Global Science Research, Kogan shared the info obtained from the app with Cambridge Analytica.

Actually, only 270,000 Facebook users signed up and took the personality test. But the app also harvested data of all the Facebook friends connected to those users.

The Scandal and Political Electioneering

Taking into consideration the related political drama in Nigeria, the affair questions how many Nigerian Facebook accounts were affected.

As at February 2016, the last official number showed there were 16 million monthly active users (MAUs) from Nigeria on Facebook. Considering that this number was 1 million more than 5 months earlier at the time of counting, it’s expected to have increased considerably over 2 decades.

According to Facebook management, 78 users in Nigeria installed Cambridge Analytica ‘This is Your Digital Life’ quiz app. Generally, 271, 469 profiles were affected. This last number were those whose friends have installed the app elsewhere in the world.  

Facebook Data Scandal and the way forward

On this note, Mark Zuckerberg sent a written testimony to US lawmakers. He has been apologizing for not doing enough to protect Facebook users’ data.  In his remarks, Zuckerberg affirmed Facebook’s responsibility to make sure the Cambridge Analytica scandal doesn’t repeat itself.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here”. Zuckerberg added.

The effect on subscribers?

Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world, with thousands joining every day. It’s therefore unclear whether this scandal will, in any way, affect Facebook’s growing customer trend. Nevertheless, the scandal has given most subscribers reasons to worry about the security of their data.

Zuckerberg, however, says there are no noticeable changes in users behaviour.  Nevertheless, Facebook will send security messages to the 87 million users whose data might have been shared with the political firm via their feeds.

 

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