News and Commentary

Why Is #DeleteFacebook Trending On Twitter?

People are calling on users to #DeleteFacebook in the wake of revelations that research firm Cambridge Analytica culled private data from 50 million Facebook profiles to determine voting patterns based on personality. The data was obtained largely without user consent.

According to Newsweek, “Facebook shares dropped by more than six percent, slashing over $30 billion from the company’s valuation.” Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has seen a hit in his personal net worth, which has now fallen by $5 billion, according to Forbes.

As people on social media demanded answers from Facebook as to what led to the scandal, demands rose for users to delete their Facebook profiles in protest.

“The share price has taken a whack and the brand has been tarnished, but it isn’t in a death spiral and is relatively well diversified for a tech company,” said Ed Macnair, CEO of security firm CensorNet.

“This is not the end. What you may see is the company putting in place a set of policies to return confidence to their handling of data and distance itself from certain third parties,” McNair added. ” I think this is the end of the ‘We are just a platform’ argument. It is increasingly clear now that the company needs to take more responsibility for how it is used.”

“Like any social media platform, Facebook relies on the public’s participation to exist,” said Tony Pepper, CEO of security firm Egress. “Change in public opinion, combined with investigations by government bodies, is likely to have major ramifications for the way Facebook and its third-party apps harvest and handle personal data. However, Facebook is a widely popular platform and while the T&Cs will undoubtedly change, it is unlikely that this will be the end.”

So where did Facebook actually go wrong in the scandal? Wired editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson shed some light on that in an interview with “CBS This Morning.”

“So the line that’s crossed is a researcher works for a company called GSR, call him Dr. K.,” Thompson told CBS. “Dr. K. sets up an app and he collects a bunch of user data from Facebook that he was supposed to keep himself. That’s the agreement he signed with Facebook. Instead, he sells that all to Cambridge Analytica.”

Thompson explained that Facebook should have been “absolutely certain” that all of the data Cambridge Analytica obtained from GSR was deleted when reports of the sharing agreement first surfaced in 2015.

“It (GSR) was grandfathered into the old, open policies. That’s how they were able to collect so much data. So, you can blame Facebook for the original policies. You can blame Facebook for not cracking down harder when they first learned about it and you can blame Facebook for having a flat-footed response when this nightmare story broke a couple of days ago,” Thompson said.

Facebook has since announced that the digital forensics firm, Stroz Friedberg, will conduct a “comprehensive audit” of Cambridge Analytica’s servers and systems. The data collection firm maintains that it did not know the data was collected improperly and did not use the data after Facebook complained about how it was obtained.