Facebook has been the talk of the town in the information technology (IT) industry for several years now, but anyone who has been paying attention to the news already knows that. Approximately 87 million users were affected by the breach caused by Cambridge Analytica (CA), though initial reports put it at only 50 million users. Unfortunately, many details were unclear for some users, so we have done our part to put some of it together. The first thing you need to know is that CA is a data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Secondly, much of the breach’s discovery came from Cambridge Analytica’s chief researcher boasting about having a fifty-million-person sample size in the company’s database. The origin of that information was also unclear, but it was not difficult to determine. Ultimately, this breach of trust leaves us with many questions regarding how technology can be exploited to illegally obtain individual users’ data. While social media may seem like a fun release, there can be serious financial implications if a data breach occurs. One of the most important things that the average user needs to know, is that this incident was not a hack.

The breach was not a hack

The popular belief is that the Facebook breach was merely a hack, which makes sense since it seems that anything that goes wrong from a technology standpoint is a ‘hack.’ In this case, though, users handed over their data willingly. The action took place between 2013 and 2015, with Cambridge Analytica harvesting data from several million Facebook users. Initially, these results were kept confidential, but eventually, they were offered to political campaigns.

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How the breach occurred

The data handed over by users was collected by CA via a loophole incorporated into the Facebook system’s programming. This loophole permitted third-party developers to collect data from their users, but it also permitted them to collect information from everyone on the friend list of the user who signed up for the application. The caveat was that the company collecting the information would not be allowed to sell it to a third party. However, CA broke this ‘golden rule’ and ultimately breached a substantial amount of user data. These users are currently still dealing with the fallout from this.

Facebook bears some of the blame

To put all the fault on CA would be erroneous as some of the blame should be laid at the feet of the social media giant. All the information taken was given by Facebook, though there were strict rules in place as to how it could be used. This access, however, is not exclusive to CA – it is given to all third-party developers as part of the data-gathering process. This goes back to our previous assertation that this was not a hack and that no systems were technically breached. This was simply a breach of confidentiality.

User responsibility

If there is one thing that the average Facebook user could learn from this situation, it is to be more careful with whom they share their data. While we generally trust Facebook, some of the third-party applications that integrate with Facebook could have malicious intentions. For the moment, data sharing responsibility still falls on the user, but it is just another example of why cyber security is so important.

While this is not a hack, it is an example of how users can cause their own downfall – something that you will become intimately familiar with in information technology school. Talk to us about enrolling today – your input and your skills could be crucial for the future.

 

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