Facebook’s stock drops 7% after whistleblower speaks on Cambridge Analytica scandal

A former employee of Cambridge Analytica has revealed new information on the harvesting of Facebook users’ data prior to the 2016 presidential election.


Facebook’s stock dropped by about 7 percent on the morning of March 19 following reports that political advertising firm Cambridge Analytica harvested information on millions of Facebook users without their consent.

Facebook shares fell to as low as $172.20 as of Monday afternoon, reducing Zuckerberg’s fortune by about $3.5 billion in a day.

 

It’s unclear how much damage the scandal could inflict on the social media giant, which has already seen a drop-off in users over the past year.

In 2017, reports outlined how Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data to deliver targeted political news and advertisements to U.S. voters during the 2016 presidential election cycle, possibly resulting in a decisive advantage for President Donald Trump. But the recent reports raise new questions about the role Facebook played in protecting user data, and reveal more about the scope and methods the firm used to acquire it.

The revelations were published by The Observer, which based its reporting on testimony and data provided by Christopher Wylie, an analytics expert who worked with Cambridge Analytica.

“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles,” he told The Guardian. “And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.”

Here’s Wylie in an interview with The Guardian:

Facebook’s role in harvesting user data

In 2014, a psychologist named Aleksandr Kogan developed an app called thisisyourdigitallife. The app was essentially a personality quiz based on the Big 5 model of personality, which measures the traits openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness, and extraversion.

The approximately 32,000 users who took the quiz agreed to the terms of the app, which stated that it would collect basic data about the users and, importantly, the friends in their network. However, the friends of the test-takers didn’t consent to having their data harvested.

Facebook’s “platform policy” allows apps to collect data from app-users’ friends—only if it’s used to improve the experience of the app. Selling or distributing user data to advertisers, however, is prohibited.

As early as 2015, Facebook discovered that Kogan had passed along that trove of user data—which was estimated to include information on anywhere from 30 to 50 million users—to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook removed the quiz app from its platform that year and requested that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica destroy the data.

“I already had,” Wylie said. “But literally all I had to do was tick a box and sign it and send it back, and that was it. Facebook made zero effort to get the data back.”

That seems to be the extent of what Facebook did to remediate the situation.

“That to me was the most astonishing thing,” Wylie said. “They waited two years and did absolutely nothing to check that the data was deleted. All they asked me to do was tick a box on a form and post it back.”

Wylie tweeted on Sunday that Facebook had suspended his account.

“Suspended by Facebook. For blowing the whistle. On something they have known privately for two years.”

On Saturday, Cambridge Analytica said in a statement that it didn’t use data from the personality-quiz app as part of its work in the 2016 presidential election.

On Monday afternoon, the U.K.’s Channel 4 released an exposé on Cambridge Analytica. The data firm had reportedly tried, unsuccessfully, to block its airing.

You can watch it here:

Plants have awareness and intelligence, argue scientists

Research in plant neurobiology shows that plants have senses, intelligence and emotions.

Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • The field of plant neurobiology studies the complex behavior of plants.
  • Plants were found to have 15-20 senses, including many like humans.
  • Some argue that plants may have awareness and intelligence, while detractors persist.
Keep reading Show less

Vaping changes blood vessels after one use, even without nicotine

E-cigarettes may be safer than traditional cigarettes, but they come with their own risks.


John Keeble
/GETTY
Surprising Science
  • A new study used an MRI machine to examine how vaping e-cigarettes affects users' cardiovascular systems immediately after inhalation.
  • The results showed that vaping causes impaired circulation, stiffer arteries and less oxygen in their blood.
  • The new study adds to a growing body of research showing that e-cigarettes – while likely safer than traditional cigarettes – are far from harmless.
Keep reading Show less

Space is dead: A challenge to the standard model of quantum mechanics

Since the idea of locality is dead, space itself may not be an aloof vacuum: Something welds things together, even at great distances.

Videos
  • Realists believe that there is an exactly understandable way the world is — one that describes processes independent of our intervention. Anti-realists, however, believe realism is too ambitious — too hard. They believe we pragmatically describe our interactions with nature — not truths that are independent of us.
  • In nature, properties of Particle B may be depend on what we choose to measure or manipulate with Particle A, even at great distances.
  • In quantum mechanics, there is no explanation for this. "It just comes out that way," says Smolin. Realists struggle with this because it would imply certain things can travel faster than light, which still seems improbable.
Keep reading Show less