Facebook said Wednesday that most of its 2 billion users likely have had their public profiles scraped by outsiders without the users’ explicit permission, dramatically raising the stakes in a privacy controversy that has dogged the company for weeks, spurred investigations in the United States and Europe, and sent the company’s stock price tumbling.
The acknowledgment was part of a broader disclosure by Facebook on Wednesday about the ways in which various levels of user data have been taken by everyone from malicious actors to ordinary app developers.
“We’re an idealistic and optimistic company, and for the first decade, we were really focused on all the good that connecting people brings,” Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on a call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. “But it’s clear now that we didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking about how people could use these tools for harm as well.”
As part of the disclosure, Facebook for the first time detailed the scale of the improper data collection for Cambridge Analytica, a political data consultancy hired by President Trump and other Republican candidates in the last two federal election cycles. The political consultancy gained access to Facebook information on up to 87 million users, 71 million of whom are Americans, Facebook said. Cambridge Analytica obtained the data to build “psychographic” profiles that would help deliver targeted messages intended to shape voter behavior in a wide range of U.S. elections. [Continue reading…]