The general media has flocked to covering the controversy, which involved Global Science Research gathering data on the 275,000 users who installed the “thisisyourdigitallife” app on Facebook. The problem is that data was also gathered on friends of the app's users. That data was then shared with Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly used the information for digital advertising that supported Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
A former Cambridge Analytica employee, furthermore, maintains that the firm has failed to follow a request by Facebook to delete the information. For privacy advocates and consumer rights groups, the Facebook issue has become a rallying point. In the process, many privacy advocates are pointing to regulations that will go into effect shortly in Europe that will, among other requirements, stipulate that organizations must obtain individuals’ permission before using personal data for marketing.
Other privacy advocates are encouraging individuals to take action to limit the data that Facebook can collect. Emory Roane of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, for example, recommends that individuals go to their Facebook pages and deny access to all apps, reports NPR.
Roane also says that Facebook users who want to continue using apps should consider denying access to certain data points, such as religion or family connections. Roane adds that individuals should turn off location services so that Facebook is unable to track locations.
In the same article, Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, provides a less-than-optimistic outlook regarding the potential to protect privacy with Facebook settings. The social media platform, unfortunately, changes its policies frequently, which makes it difficult for individuals to understand what actions are required to maintain privacy.
Instead, the U.S. should enact regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation that goes into effect on May 25 in Europe. In addition to stipulating that marketers must gain individuals’ permission for using data in advertising, the law says individuals must be given details regarding the type of information being collected. It will be interesting to see if the rules have any impact on Facebook’s profits, Chester adds.
Micah Sifry, who is president of Civic Hall, is another advocate for increased regulation. He says that the trend of individuals deleting their Facebook accounts isn’t sufficient for stopping the social media platform from amassing massive amounts of personal data, according to The Nation.
Instead, government regulation is needed to stop social media platforms from selling individuals’ personal data. Amie Stepanovich of Access Now, a digital privacy advocacy group, echoes that concern. In a recent article in The Hill she maintains that the U.S. has lagged behind most of the world in providing data protection laws. Regulations, she argues, should give individuals more control over the data that is collected.
Regulators or policymakers with social media platforms should also assess how far “afield” data about individuals can travel before individuals begin to feel like they are losing control of how the information is used online, adds Nuala O’Connor, president of the Center for Democracy.
The same article from The Hill quotes Jamie Lee Williams, who is an attorney with technology consumer advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The attorney maintains that independent auditors should be allowed to uncover information that organizations gather so that individuals will know what personal data has been collected.