Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission announced a broad investigation of Facebook, saying they have “substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook.” In a letter to Facebook Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, a group of state attorneys general demanded specific answers about how companies like Cambridge Analytica accessed the information of Facebook users without those users’ permission. The moves by the FTC and 37 state attorneys general are in addition to the three congressional committees that have already called Zuckerberg to testify next month about the user-data breach. RELATED: Facebook revokes data firm’s access for helping Trump campaign but didn’t mind when Obama did the same thing Facebook has also been sued by Cook County, Illinois, whose state attorney says Facebook violated Illinois’ fraud law. One Facebook user is suing them for violation of user privacy. A shareholder is suing because of the steep drop in stock price after the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal was revealed.
Because of all the negative headlines, and Zuckerberg’s late effort to answer questions about the Cambridge Analytica mess, Facebook stock lost $75 billion in market value last week. Forbes reported that the personal net worth of Zuckerberg dropped by $5 billion.
This is not new
In 2012, the Obama campaign encouraged supporters to download an Obama 2012 Facebook app that, when activated, let the campaign collect Facebook data both on users and their friends.
According to a July 2012 MIT Technology Review article, when you installed the app, “it said it would grab information about my friends: their birth dates, locations, and ‘likes.’ ”
More than a million people downloaded the app, which, given an average friend-list size of 190, means that as many as 190 million had at least some of their Facebook data vacuumed up by the Obama campaign — without their knowledge or consent.
If anything, Facebook made it easy for Obama to do so. A former campaign director, Carol Davidsen, tweeted that “Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.”
The campaign could deliver carefully targeted campaign messages disguised as messages from friends to millions of Facebook users.
The campaign readily admitted that this subtle deception was key to their Facebook strategy.
“People don’t trust campaigns. They don’t even trust media organizations,” Teddy Goff, the Obama campaign’s digital director, said at the time. “Who do they trust? Their friends.”
The effort was called a “game-changer” in the 2012 election, and the Obama campaign boasted that it was “the most groundbreaking piece of technology developed for the campaign.”
The vast majority of people involved in these data-mining operations had no idea they were participating. And in the case of Obama, they had no way of knowing that the Obama campaign material cluttering their feed wasn’t really just political urgings from their friends.