Social media site telling users if they were hit by illegal data sharing

Facebook users will receive notifications telling them whether they were among those affected by the improper sharing of information with Cambridge Analytica, nearly three weeks after news of the scandal broke. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

If you are among the 65,000 Facebook users in Singapore whose data was shared improperly with Cambridge Analytica, you are in the process of being told about it.

Facebook has started reaching out to all its account holders - including the 87 million worldwide whose data was shared improperly - to let them know whether they were affected.

This marks the first time users will know if their account information was shared improperly or not, almost three weeks since news of the scandal first broke.

Those with affected accounts will see a notification at the top of their Facebook News Feed, informing them how they are affected.

The social media website had told tech news site The Verge in a report that ran early yesterday morning that "the notification is rolling out over the course of today".

Affected users will see one of two notifications, with both saying that the thisisyourdigitallife app was banned by the company for misusing Facebook information.

Users could have had their data compromised either because they logged into the app on their own account, or one of their friends did so.

"We did this because the app may have misused some of your Facebook information by sharing it with a company called Cambridge Analytica," the notifications read.

Furthermore, all of Facebook's 2.2 billion users will also see a prompt at the top of their News Feed that gives them quick access to check which apps and websites they are currently sharing data with.

Users can then choose to remove these apps and websites from their account, which stops them from accessing further data from the users' profiles.

These notifications are part of Facebook's attempts to deal with the global scandal where information about its users was accessed improperly by third-party companies.

The process seems to be taking its time. A mock-up of the notification being sent to users was first posted on a blog post by Facebook's chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer last Wednesday, which stated that Facebook users would start seeing it on Monday.

However, according to international reports, most Facebook users had not received the notifications even on Monday night.

The social media company revealed last week that 65,009 Facebook users here had their information shared inappropriately with Cambridge Analytica, which exploited the data for commercial and political use.

The thisisyourdigitallife app was a personality quiz administered by data scientist and academic Aleksandr Kogan from Cambridge University, who paid hundreds of thousands of users to take it for academic research purposes.

However, the app also collected information on the test-takers' Facebook friends, leading to a data pool of more than 80 million users.

Facebook banned the app in 2015, but the data collected was not destroyed, in violation of Facebook's personal data policy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline 'Social media site telling users if they were hit by illegal data sharing'. Print Edition | Subscribe