Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckeberg, is in hot water after it was found out that over 50 million users’ data were sold by a third party company to sway votes in the 2016 Presidential election.
In 2014, Aleksander Kogan made the app, “thisisyourdigitallife”, citing research as his reason for its creation. He is a Russian-American senior lecturer from Cambridge University’s Psychology Department. The app’s kept track of the digital footprint of those who signed up for the service. They will receive a small sum of payment in exchange for their participation. According to The Times, the cost of the whole operation was around $800,000.
Almost 270,000 from the United States alone signed up for the app back in 2014. What they didn’t know was that upon joining , they were also sharing the data of those connected to them.
In turn, the information harvested was then used to create psychological profiles to determine the likes and needs of different groups. In 2015, these results were sold to other companies and may have possibly influenced the US Presidential elections and Brexit.
Cambridge Analytica former contractor and now whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, said the following in an interview with The Time:
“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles and built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on”
He insisted that the app was a “full-service propaganda machine”. He also implied that Brexit would’ve been a different story altogether if it weren’t for forces that insist on leaving the European Union.
Kogan, creator of the app, felt he was being used by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica as a scapegoat. He denies leaking the data illegally and says he did what every other digital company practiced. Emails obtained by CNN stated that he is willing to testify to the authorities about his involvement.
Zuckerberg on his part has issued an apology which was published in at least six major newspapers including The New York Times and Washington Post. Online information portal, The Verge, has posted a picture of the apology.
UK Parliament has invited the social media mogul three times to testify to the members of the Parliament. Zuckerberg has declined all invitations and instead opted to let Chris Cox, his chief product officer, or Mike Schroepfer, the chief technology officer, to go in his stead. Cox is the man behind what goes on your Facebook newsfeed and Schroepfer works on the developing the platform.
Damian Collins, the chair for this case, has described Zuckerberg’s rejection as “absolutely astonishing”.