As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify before Congress this week, one portion of data has been noted as missing.
Zuckerberg is set to testify on Tuesday before the House committee and has recently admitted fault in his company’s failure to stop a consulting firm from accessing nearly 87 million users’ private information.
According to the National Review, Zuckerberg’s testimony will include his company’s inaction in protecting users’ data from consulting firm Cambridge Analytica — a data breach much like the one that happened during the Obama reelection campaign in 2012, and one which the CEO will be leaving out of his remarks.
Aptly titled “What Happened,” the portion of the CEO’s testimony recalls the failures that led up to the invasion of privacy beginning back in 2007, when the social media platform began to take off.
Zuckerberg quickly moves forward to 2013, during the time when a Dutch academic deployed an online survey which effectively allowed him to collect data from responders and their friends before selling the information to Cambridge Analytica.
Interestingly, the testimony skips over the year 2012, when Obama’s second campaign for the presidency similarly scraped user data from those who used the Obama 2012 app and their friends who had never consented to their data being used for marketing efforts.
To individuals like Rayid Ghani, who was the chief scientist on the Obama 2012 campaign, there was no way for their group to do such a thing.
“All we could do was ask our ‘primary’ supporters to contact their friends and we would recommend who those friends were based on the data they allowed us to access,” Ghani said.
He added that Facebook “did not look the other way, because they did not need to.”
However, Carol Davidsen, who is the former director for America’s Integration and Media Analytics, states otherwise.
“We ingested the entire U.S. social graph,” said Davidsen, who had built a database of nearly every American voter using a similar Facebook developer tool that was used by Cambridge — the social graph API.
“We would ask permission to basically scrape your profile, and also scrape your friends, basically anything that was available to scrape,” she added. “We scraped it all.”
According to Davidsen, anytime a user signed in using Facebook’s “log-in” button, Obama data scientists were able to not only access the user’s profile, but that of their friends and all the information that came with it, allowing them to chart their relationships and estimate how they might influence others to vote.
Teddy Goff, former digital director for the Obama campaign, stated that staffers had been open about their need of a social-media operation in order to secure a vote.
“People don’t trust campaigns. They don’t even trust media organizations,” Teddy Goff, the Obama campaign’s digital director, said at the time. “Who do they trust? Their friends.”
Though Facebook eventually tightened its rules in 2015 regarding data-sharing apps, it never publicly addressed the alleged exploitation during the 2012 campaign.
“Four years is a long time in the analytics business,” said Carone, who is a University of Notre Dame professor who specializes in data science.
Carone added that it’s still unclear as to whether or not rules — and trust — were broken during the 2012 campaign, but only that “great strides have been made with how data is collected, analyzed, and used to make decisions in between campaigns.
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