The series of controversies prove how powerful Facebook is not only in the West but in ASEAN as well
A data leak scandal exploded over the weekend involving the data of around 50 million Facebook users and Cambridge Analytica, a data consulting firm that has ties with Donald Trump’s social media strategy during the 2016 presidential campaign. The firm gained access to millions of personal data through a third-party app that offered a personality quiz to Facebook users. This made people take a moment to check their third-party app permissions and security settings on their social media accounts.
“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” says Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his post on March 22, 2018. He outlined the events that led to this data privacy scandal. Here’s a quick roundup:
In 2007, Facebook envisioned that more apps should be social, so it enabled people to log into apps through Facebook and share information.
In 2013, Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app that was able to gain access to millions of Facebook users’ data due to third-party app permissions on Facebook.
In 2014, Facebook announced that apps like Kogan’s could no longer access data about users’ friends on the platform without authorization from the friends themselves. App developers also need to secure permission from Facebook before they could request sensitive personal data from the platform’s users.
In 2015, news reports stated that Kogan shared his app’s data with Cambridge Analytica, prompting Facebook to ban Kogan from the platform. Facebook also demanded Kogan and Cambridge Analytica to issue formal certifications that they have deleted all the improperly acquired data.
Last week, reports from major news sites showed that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data unlike what the firm had claimed. Facebook immediately banned Cambridge Analytica from using any of its services and hired a firm to do a forensic audit on the data analytics company to ensure that all of the data involving Facebook users are all deleted.
Zuckerberg reveals three steps the social media giant vows to do:
1. Facebook will investigate all apps that have access to huge amounts of data in their social network and will conduct a full audit of all suspicious app activities. Any developer who will not agree with the audit will be banned and people affected by the misuse of data will be informed.
2. Facebook will further restrict app developers’ access to Facebook users’ data: Developers will not be able to access users’ data if a user is inactive on the third-party app for 3 months. The data given to a third-party app when someone signs in will only be the name, profile photo, and email address. Developers will be required to sign a contract when they request to access Facebook users’ posts and other private data.
3. Next month, Facebook will deploy a tool at the top of the News Feed (to make sure everyone sees it) that will show the apps a user has allowed access to and will provide an easy way to revoke third-party apps’ permissions.
Facebook and its power in the ASEAN region
This recent data leak is just one indication of how powerful Facebook is in the West. But its reach in other parts of the world, specifically in the ASEAN region is not to be taken lightly either. With its 305.9 million active Facebook users in 2017, Southeast Asia’s socio-political challenges reveal just how much social media and politics are intertwined.
In 2017, a University of Oxford study, “Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation,” cited the Philippines as a proven example of the use of fake accounts and computational propaganda in advancing a certain political agenda.
“These bots are often used to flood social media networks with spam and fake news. They can also amplify marginal voices and ideas by inflating the number of likes, shares and retweets they receive, creating an artificial sense of popularity, momentum or relevance,” the study says. However, according to news reports, even real accounts are also being used to spread propaganda and fake news.
In Myanmar, Facebook posts by ultranationalist monk Ashin Wirathu contained false information about the Rohingya Muslims, portraying them as aggressive outsiders.
From data privacy to the spread of fake news, the social media giant has a lot of work to do.
By PAULINE MENDOZA
This article originally appeared in Inc. Southeast Asia