In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the company used a notorious quiz called “This Is Your Digital Life” to access the data of 87 million users, Facebook has been apologizing while ignoring the insistent question that has occured to everyone by now: This was the only quiz, right? It turns out that it probably wasn’t, and this one quiz may just be the tip of the iceberg. In fact, this is unlikely to stop with Cambridge Analytica.
Brittany Kaiser, the former Business Development Director for Cambridge Analytica, testified in front of the UK Parliament today, discussing her time at the company and what she saw. The written testimony Kaiser submitted is worth a read in its own right: It explains how Cambridge Analytica moved in political and data circles for so long with nobody noticing, using charitable initiatives like reconstructing countries suffering from ebola as cover. But the most arresting bit involves Kaiser claiming there was not just one quiz:
I should emphasise that the [“This is your digital life” quizzes] were not the only Facebook-connected questionnaires and datasets which Cambridge Analytica used. I am aware in a general sense of a wide range of surveys which were done by CA or its partners, usually with a Facebook login – for example, the “sex compass” quiz. I do not know the specifics of these surveys or how the data was acquired or processed. But I believe it is almost certain that the number of Facebook users whose data was compromised through routes similar to that used by Kogan is much greater than 87 million; and that both Cambridge Analytica and other unconnected companies and campaigns were involved in these activities.
It’s been well-known for years that Facebook offers quizzes and other distractions. And it’s easy to forget that while you probably haven’t taken one since Flo Rida was getting low, they’re still popular. Buzzfeed may have become a news organ, but there are still quizzes that tell you which band you’ll love based on your taste in mustards coming out of the site on a regular basis.
Equally worrying is Kaiser’s point that everyone else in the data space was doing this too. While even Facebook itself isn’t entirely sure just how enormous its fake news and data scraping problems really are, one thing that is painfully clear is that Cambridge Analytica was far from unique. Even now, apps like Grindr are sharing sensitive medical information with companies that optimize apps. How often do you check the permissions of the apps and websites you use every day, after all?
The main question now becomes one of accountability. We don’t know which firms have taken which data or what they’ve done with it. In all probability, most of them just used it to try and sell you junk you don’t need. But who knows where the data went, or who used it and why? Those are answers we need, and Facebook needs to present them quickly.
(via Business Insider)