On Wednesday, Facebook announced that an estimated 87 million people have been affected by the Cambridge Analytica data breach that originally was thought to have touched 50 million people, based on accounts from former employees of the firm and documents reported on by the The New York Times and others.
Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer, shared the news in a corporate blog post on Wednesday. He also said that on April 9 — this Monday — Facebook will show users a link at the top of the News Feed that shows all the apps they use and what information they are sharing with those apps — and they ostensibly will be able to easily remove them if they want.
“As part of this process we will also tell people if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica,” Schroepfer writes in the blog post.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the tool in an interview with CNN’s Laurie Segall on March 21, saying “We’re going to build a tool where anyone can go and see if their data was a part of this.” The Cambridge Analytica app, “thisisyourdigitallife,” is described by Facebook in a March 16 blog post, as one that offered “a personality prediction, and billed itself on Facebook as “a research app used by psychologists. Approximately 270,000 people downloaded the app. In so doing, they gave their consent for [app creator Dr. Aleksandr Kogan] to access information such as the city they set on their profile, or content they had liked, as well as more limited information about friends who had their privacy settings set to allow it.” That data was then sold to political campaigns, a violation of Facebook’s policies. Critics say Facebook simply didn’t do enough to stop it, though.
There might be a tidal wave of Facebook users who seek legal action against the company, once they confirm their data was tied up by Cambridge Analytica. Democrats may especially be angered, as the firm transacted with Trump, Ted Cruz, Roy Blunt, John Bolton, Ben Carson, and other politicians, according to Federal Election Commission data. (Cambridge Analytica also “talked business” with Russians, reported the Times.) Also, attorneys general in 34 states have asked seven serious questions of Zuckerberg, and a class-action lawsuit has been filed in Southern Texas District Court on behalf of the 50 million users.
Facebook’s first quarter earnings call is typically in early May and Zuckerberg and other executives will likely have to address this change and others as it attempts to overcome its latest scandal related to the 2016 general election. Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg said Wednesday that this is just the beginning: “This is a long-term effort and we will continue to update you. We’re making major investments in security, including hiring more people and building smarter technology to protect people proactively.”