Barely two months after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook is the subject of another data controversy as a third-party app in the form of a personality quiz, was able to collect and distribute sensitive Facebook data from over 3 million people.
The data contained Facebook users’ answers for the personality trait test, and while it didn’t disclose the users’ names, it did contain their age, gender and relationship status. Additionally, status updates of over 150,000 users were exposed.
The data was supposed to be shared and used among approved researchers exclusively through a specially designated website for that purpose but, reports suggest that a username and password to access the side could be found “in less than a minute” on any search engine, therefore meaning that anybody could access this massive pile of data.
“This type of data is very powerful and there is real potential for misuse,” says Chris Sumner at the Online Privacy Foundation.
Personality Tests, Facebook’s nightmares
The data was collected via a psychology test shared on the social media platform named, myPersonality and approximately half of the 6 million users who participated in this test agreed to share their information anonymously to researches. The data collected was controlled by David Stillwell and Michal Kosinki from the University of Cambridge’s The Psychometrics centre. The team behind the test, shared the data to any researcher who agreed on using the data anonymously. In total, 280 people were granted access to the pool of information, which included employees from Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.
This data scandal had similar mode of operations to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, which obtained data information for over 87 million Facebook users from a personality test entitled ‘thisisyourdigitallife.’ Additionally, the University of Cambridge initiated both tests and even had one common researcher: Aleksandr Kogan, who was listed as a researcher until mid-2014.
Additionally, reports suggest that Cambridge Analytica even approached developers behind the myPersonality app to obtain the data collected but were shown the door due to its political ambitions.
It has been said that it’s data taken from Facebook without the users’ consent. This is both true and not true. If you read the license agreement, when you sign up to Facebook, you would understand that you have absolutely no rights when it comes to your data; your information, what you post and how information is gathered about you
Evgeny Chereshnev, CEO and founder of Biolink.Tech
As of now, the myPersonality app website has been taken off the internet along with the available information.
What is Facebook Doing?
Facebook began a probe against myPersonality and several other third-party apps that may have had access to additional user data. The probe began following the backlash of the international community against the way Facebook handled users’ data. The social media giant also announced today that it suspended around 200 such apps for they had access to significant amounts of user information.
However, Stillwell, creator of the app, claims that Facebook knew about the myPersonality project for years already, he also claims that he even met officials from Facebook for that matter since 2011. “It is therefore a little odd that Facebook should suddenly now profess itself to have been unaware of the myPersonality research and to believe that the use of the data was a breach of its terms,” he said.
Facebook, along with the Information Commissioner’s Office are trying to find out who gained access to the data collected however, as it was available for over 4 years on a website with doubtful security features, the investigation already seems bound to fail.