Five Facts You Need to Know About Facebook's Data Crisis

This past week, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress to discuss how the social media behemoth protects and uses the data collected from users as well as the company’s role in the 2016 election.

The 33-year-old Silicon Valley billionaire testified during a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committees and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (You can read Zuckerberg’s written testimony here). On the Monday before the hearings, Zuckerberg also spent time on Capitol Hill meeting with elected officials, who expressed concern over the platform’s lack of privacy. 

How did the enormously popular social media site — 2 billion monthly users and counting — end up in trouble with Washington lawmakers? Here are five facts you need to know about the Facebook’s privacy rules and how they were manipulated to influence the 2016 election. 

1. Data was taken from Facebook users without their knowledge. In March, The New York Times, The Observer of London, and The Guardian reported that British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica acquired tens of millions of users’ personal data. 

According to John Mulholland, the Observer’s outgoing editor, Facebook threatened to sue the paper to stop them from publishing the story. After the story broke, Zuckerberg released a statement that stressed Facebook’s responsibility to protect users’ data. “If we can’t [do this],” he said, “we don’t deserve to serve you.”

2. Cambridge Analytica has close ties to Donald Trump. The firm was founded by Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House Chief Strategist under President Trump, and Robert Mercer, another conservative who supported Trump. 

3. Following the news of the Cambridge Analytica breach, members of Congress demanded that Mark Zuckerberg testify before them and explain what happened. Other U.S. officials weighed in too. Maura Healey, the attorney general of Massachusetts, opened an investigation into the company. The outrage wasn’t limited to American leaders: Indonesia, Australia, and the U.K. are now all conducting their own investigations into the social media company.

4. Facebook has taken proactive measures since the security breach. According to a statement issued by Zuckerberg, Facebook will take a number of steps to prevent a similar breach from happening again. This includes investigating all apps that have access to large amounts of information, further restricting developers’ data access, and making sure users know which apps have access to their personal information. 

5. But this isn’t Facebook’s only problem right now. Last fall, news broke that Russian operatives bought 3,000 ads through 470 accounts during the 2016 presidential election. All of this propaganda supported the election of Donald Trump. Facebook strongly condemned these ads; the company’s general counsel called them “vile” and “reprehensible,” according to the Washington Post. But it still caused Facebook to be targeted by critics. 

No Labels is an organization of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to bring American leaders together to solve problems.

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