Staff Ed: Internet users should be careful about what they post on social media
By THE BLUE & GRAY PRESS STAFF
The recent Facebook hack left many Facebook users questioning the safety of their information. However, the “hacking” was in actuality not a hacking at all—Cambridge Analytica (CA), a data analysis company that worked on Trump’s campaign used completely legal methods to obtain data from the accounts of over 50 million people, taking advantage of the way that Facebook is designed in order to do so. While Facebook contends that the technology that CA used to obtain millions of users’ information worked exactly how Facebook had created it to work, the corporation claims that CA violated Facebook’s terms of service and has suspended CA from its service. Despite this proclamation of innocence, Facebook has changed its terms of service since the breach to cut down on how much information can be shared with third parties, signifying that the corporation is aware that their prior restrictions were not good enough.
What many people may not know about third-party companies and their ability to access data from Facebook user accounts is that whenever someone logs into a website through their Facebook instead of creating a username and password, the developer of the website is granted access to much, if not all, of their Facebook information. What is even more surprising is that developers are then able to access data from Facebook accounts of those who are on the friends list of whoever logged onto the website.
In 2015, Cambridge University Professor Dr. Aleksandr Koger created an app called “thisisyourdigitallife,” which utilized the Facebook log in and thus gave Koger access to the information of every single person who used his app: around 50 million people. Koger recently sold the information to CA. Facebook’s chief security officer sent out a tweet that stated that everything Koger did to obtain the information was completely legal, and although he did misuse the data after he had obtained it, his actions were not necessarily a breach of Facebook’s security. However, the corporation suspended CA for violating Facebook’s terms of service, which prohibit third party companies from sharing or transferring data to any ad network, data broker, or other monetization-related service.
This completely legal breach of privacy should lead our community to think more carefully about what we put online, and to be aware of the potential access corporations and large companies have to our information. While Facebook should not have the right to share its users information, a very smart and simple solution is for people to think critically about what they are putting up on their Facebook accounts, and to limit any online activity that they do not want shared with third party corporations.