Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Leak: How The Scam Has Shaken The Politics Worldwide

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The ongoing Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Scam has sparked a global uproar concerning the misuse of the user data acquired through Facebook for what can potentially be the biggest blow to a democracy in the hindsight. Directly or indirectly, the Facebook user data leaked to Cambridge Analytica is now being blamed for setting up the 2016 US Presidential Election Campaign, resulting in Donald Trump’s victory.

The deceiver, in this case, is not Facebook but an app inventor and a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan, who is being blamed for sharing the acquired data through his personality quiz app with Cambridge Analytica, a British data analytics firm which incidentally, was also handling two campaigns for Donald Trump during his election run.

Though there is little point in the blame game here as Facebook faces all the heat for this. So much so that the company has lost $57 billion in the US stock exchange this week. And make no mistake, this might just be the spark to a fire which will engulf all the social media platforms online within no time.

The Impact

If all the allegations about altering the elections through ‘electronical brainwash’ of the citizens via targeted ads on social media are proven to be true, this might just mean the end to the concept of democracy as we know it. While the allegations are sky-high on both ends, their potential impact could be even larger and on a global scale nonetheless.

Cambridge Analytica is now facing a government search of its London office, questions from U.S. state authorities, and a demand by Facebook that it submit to a forensic audit. Here is a list of the aftermath that has taken place since then:

– Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica has been suspended.
– #DeleteFacebook has started trending. (even propagated by the WhatsApp co-founder)
– Facebook has been summoned by Germany, Brazil.
– Mark Zuckerberg has made a public apology.
– Facebook’s market shares have fallen for the third day straight.
– Facebook has released a list of measures it will take to prevent any such misuse in the future.

Also read: Facebook Data Breach: If Germany and Brazil Can, What Stops India From Summoning Social Media Giant?

The Political Effect

While seeking a fourth term as a German chancellor, Angela Merkel had called for a debate on how fake news, bots and trolls could potentially manipulate public opinion during the next German elections. While this was not directly related to the data-theft issue at hand, it did point out the potential impact the social media platform could have on the political scenario of the nation.

Germany – On the recent developments, Katarina Barley, Germany’s justice minister has asked for clarification from Facebook upon how the personal data of the website’s 30 million users in Germany is being protected from unlawful use by third parties, as per a report by the Funke group of German regional newspapers. The minister even asked Facebook to explain how the data-theft took place in America.

Not just Germany, the issue is being expressed by the governments worldwide with utmost concern. Here are some countries which have already sought an explanation from Facebook for the mishap:

United States – The nation that is directly affected by the data leak has launched a probe into the whole scenario. A report indicates that the Facebook, as well as Twitter CEO, has been asked to provide a testimony by Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, vice chair of the Intelligence committee.

In addition, Facebook is supposed to conduct staff-level briefings of six committees on Tuesday and Wednesday, including ones with the White House and Senate Judiciary Committees, as well as the commerce and intelligence committees of both chambers.

US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also poised to open a probe into the matter to see if the company violated a 2011 consent decree term prohibiting companies from transferring the user data without the user’s consent. It is expected to send across a letter to the company soon.

United Kingdom – Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned to provide oral evidence by Damian Collins, the digital, culture, media and sports MP after reports about the potential misuse of its data by the election consultancy Cambridge Analytica surfaced.

I have today written to @facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling on him to give oral evidence to @CommonsCMS following recent reports in @guardian and @nytimes pic.twitter.com/y5xnGHzaNI

— Damian Collins (@DamianCollins) March 20, 2018

European Union – Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, publicly issued a summon to the Facebook CEO to clarify before state members how the personal data of its users is not being used to ‘manipulate democracy’.

We’ve invited Mark Zuckerberg to the European Parliament. Facebook needs to clarify before the representatives of 500 million Europeans that personal data is not being used to manipulate democracy.

— Antonio Tajani (@EP_President) March 20, 2018

India – Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad issued a stern warning to Facebook on Wednesday stating, “Mr. Mark Zuckerberg you better know the observation of IT Minister of India, if any data theft of Indians is done with the collusion of FB systems, it will not be tolerated.”

India is the biggest user base for the social media platform. Prasad further warned them of trying to influence the country’s electoral process through undesirable means. “We have got stringent powers in the IT Act including summoning you [Mark Zuckerberg] in India” he added.

Brazil – Brazil has also launched an investigation into the matter. Brazilian prosecutors on Wednesday said they had opened an investigation into whether Cambridge Analytica acted illegally in Brazil on the same grounds.

Prosecutors for Brazil’s Federal District, which includes Brasilia, the capital, said in a written statement that they will look into whether the firm, through its partnership with Sao Paulo-based consulting group A Ponte Estratégia Planejamento e Pesquisa LTDA, illegally used the data of millions of Brazilians to create psychographic profiles.

Australia – As per a report Rod Sims, the local competition regulator has said that the Facebook user privacy breach will be part of his upcoming inquiry into internet companies. Australia has a total of 15 million Facebook users.

These are just a handful of countries which have expressed an immediate concern over the issue. As more is known about this, and other such potential misuse of user data acquired by social media websites, stringent actions might need to be taken in the near future by the national governments to ensure that such data thefts do not interfere with the essence of a ‘democracy’ in a nation.

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