How to Tell If Your Info Was Shared With Cambridge Analytica
As Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Facebook rolled out a feature they claim will tell you whether or not your information was used by data mining company Cambridge Analytica.
The graphic below began appearing on the site Monday, and was being widely shared Tuesday. It links to a page that Facebook programmers claim reveals to logged-in users whether or not they or their friends were subject to data mining via the “This Is Your Digital Life" app.
(The images below link to the Facebook tool. Tap or click them to check your account.)
I tested the link and was cleared. However, it's important to note that your information is still used by Facebook and associated apps for various purposes.
I do not install Facebook apps or games, and I do not participate in Facebook quizzes or questionnaires. However, Facebook itself, like most major websites, does mine a certain amount of data from users with the understanding that the information will be used to traffic ads relevant to users' interests.
So, even if you don't consciously surrender information, and even if you weren't subject to mining by Cambridge Analytica, your data is still subject to the whims of Facebook's developers. Even if the use of that data is relatively benign, you should be aware of it.
So what data did Cambridge Analytica reportedly use? According to Wired Magazine, it included basic information such as the user's name, location, birthday, interests, and other data typical users willingly supply to Facebook upon signing up. However, in some cases, they gained access to users' private inboxes.
As reported by the Washington Post, Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress Tuesday addressed concerns about the misuse of data of an estimated 87 million Facebook users, including an estimated 71 million Americans. Zuckerberg was grilled about what he knew concerning alleged Russian misinformation campaigns aimed at influencing the United States' 2016 presidential election.
While watching the proceedings, I felt Zuckerberg was apologetic yet defiant, insisting that although he regrets the misuse of user data, he stands by the company's business model of using data to traffic relevant content and ads to users, which he said was meant to "[connect] everyone in the world." He insisted that Facebook developers did not aid Cambridge Analytica, which has been accused of using mined information without users' consent in order to act as consultants in political races in a number of countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
There was even an exchange between Zuckerberg and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz accused Facebook of being biased against conservative Americans - an allegation Zuckerberg disputed.
At the time of this article's publication, Zuckerberg was still testifying.