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Curbing User Privacy and Policy Violation: Facebook Suspends Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group

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The 21st century is marked by the overflow of information across the pool of social networking platforms and the apps billed in on them by developers, thereby often rendering the privacy of personal user information vulnerable to unwanted exposure.

Caught in a similar situation of policy violation impinging on the privacy rights of its user information, Facebook has done away with Cambridge Analytica, the data firm used by the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, citing policy violations as the cause of the suspension.

Paul Grewal, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Facebook, stated in a post on Friday night that the decision was taken after data firm reports were not completely deleted, given to them by a University of Cambridge professor surfaced, which was totally in violation of Facebook policies.

Adding to this, Grewal said that Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, the Psychology Professor at the University of Cambridge, had wrongly passed data to Strategic Communication Laboratories (that houses Cambridge Analytica) from his app, using Facebook Login, thereby violating Facebook’s Platform policies. Kogan could gain access to information on those using his app, such as the city they were living in then, the pages/content they liked, and so on, as the app provided personality prediction. It was billed on Facebook as “a research app used by psychologists.” Consequently, as many as about 270,000 people fell for it and downloaded the app, by and large, unsuspectingly giving their consent to Kogan to access their personal information filled in on the app, intruding upon their information privacy. This further allowed Kogan to pass on data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc.

Although Kogan gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels that governed all developers on Facebook at that time, he did not subsequently abide by our rules. By passing information on to a third party, including SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, he violated our platform policie. – Paul Grewal, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Facebook

Following the information of the violation received in 2015, The popular social networking site asked Cambridge Analytica to certify that they had destroyed the data they received and that the company had done so.

Several days ago, we received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data were deleted. We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims. – Grewal’s statement

Following up on the certification and finding inconsistency between word and action, Facebook decided to take the matter into their hands and effect strict punitive action. To put in Regan’s statement from the post on this, it goes: “If true, this is another unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments they made. We are suspending SCL/Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan from Facebook, pending further information.”

Facebook is committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information. We will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens. We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behaviour. – Paul Grewal, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Facebook

Following this mess up, Cambridge Analytica has now been kept under scrutiny regarding the probe into its alleged interference in the Russian election.

Also, Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly requested that all emails from the firm’s employees who worked with the Trump campaign, and Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica, be interviewed with the House Intelligence Committee.

The final section of Grewal’s post has enumerated measures to improve the profile experience and account for the safety of all Facebook users. To this end, all apps asking for detailed user information shall have to pass through the scrutiny of Facebook’s App Review process, where the developers won’t be permitted to even ask for information from any Facebook user before convincingly justifying the nature and exact purpose of the data they want to collect to Facebook.

Not only this, after getting feedback from the Facebook community, Facebook decided to hand the leash of personal information outlay and friend list of exclusively to the users so that they can “control their experience” themselves, as stated in the post. For this, before, the users can “review the permissions the developer is requesting and choose which information to share” before deciding to download an app. Additionally, the users can also “manage or revoke” those permissions at any time if they deem it fit. Facebook does many things manual and automated checks such as random audits of the currently existing along with systematic, responsive, and timely monitoring of the fastest growing apps to keep a tab on its policy compliance and a positive and fulfilling user experience.

Accordingly, policy enforcement is ensured in many ways, such as suspending unlawful developers, working with developers to address problems, etc.

With its suspension of policy violators and its steady protective measures to uphold the safety of user experience on its platform, Facebook proves why it continues to be a favorite among social network users.


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