The availability of the data set was first reported by Business Insider. According to that publication, it has information from 106 countries including phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birthdates, and email addresses. Facebook has been grappling with data security issues for years. In 2018, the social media giant disabled a feature that allowed users to search for one another via phone number following revelations that the political firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed information on up to 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent.
However, present information appears to be several years old but still a matter of customer confidentiality and their consent which not been secured in this case. Over the past two years alone, Facebook has been repeatedly weaponized by foreign actors in coordinated misinformation campaigns. The personal data of 87 million of its users was improperly harvested by an app developer. And now, thanks to hackers taking advantage of three separate site bugs, at least 50 million Facebook users have had their accounts compromised.
Scrapping could be another explanation for how this data was stolen. The method involves deploying bots to collect information from publicly available Facebook profiles. Facebook’s terms of service declare scraping as illegal, but the social network doesn’t have processes to keep it in check.
The Cambridge Analytica incident involves arguably the most serious misuse and mishandling of consumer data. The purpose for which the data was illegally harvested is new and it hits a nerve with an American society that is already politically divided and where political emotions run high. Funded by Robert Mercer, a prominent Republican donor, and Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former political adviser, CA was using the data for explicitly political purposes to help conservative campaigns in the 2016 election, including Donald Trump’s campaign. Neither the 3000,000 Facebook users who downloaded the app nor their 87 million friends anticipated that their data could be used for these political purposes. It’s one thing if customer data is used to serve bothersome ads, or a hacker steals credit card information for economic gain, but it’s another if the world’s largest social network was taken advantage of to help elect the president of the United States.