WhatsApp, Facebook interlink makes data mining easier

Hyderabad: Over the course of its existence, Facebook has acquired more than 50 companies. This includes popular messaging and social media platforms WhatsApp and Instagram. Facebook has also made it possible to pass information across platforms if your Facebook account has been linked with either or both of them.

After the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company has suspended the Facebook and Instagram profiles of Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower behind the scandal.

Christopher Wylie has brought to light the fact that Cambridge Analytica had acquired millions of Facebook users’ personal information to build software that could swing voters in political campaigns. Upon his suspension, Christopher took to Twitter and said, “The downside to Facebook banning me on Instagram is missing out on my daily dose of well-curated food photos and thirst traps.”

Experts opine that everything is interconnected when you are on the Internet. This is evident from the Instagram banning of Wylie, despite him being alleged in violation of only Facebook’s policy. Furthermore, even though WhatsApp claims to have end-to-end encryption, often data shared on WhatsApp is used to show advertisements.

A cybersecurity expert recently said, “If you talk about a particular journey on a WhatApp call and later check Facebook, the user will encounter an ad related to travel. Even conversations on calls can be monitored. This is not the case just with Facebook, many other applications also spy on you and some of them know more about you than you do about yourself.” Experts have advised to avoid linking all social media accounts to a single email in order to avoid being targeted by ads.

FB updates privacy tools amidst scandal

Ahead of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force on May 25, Facebook has updated its user interface and privacy tools to allow users to delete data. It has redesigned its settings menu on mobile devices so that privacy options are available in a single place.

Facebook has been working on these updates from almost a year as the European Union has toughened the requirements on how organisations handle the public’s data. This includes imposing harsher penalties for any breaches.

Amidst the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook decided to roll out the privacy updates because “the events of the past several days underscore their importance.”

Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, in her statement acknowledged the damage caused by the Cambridge Analytica revelations. “In addition to Mark Zuckerberg’s announcements last week, cracking down on abuse of the Facebook platform, strengthening our policies, and making it easier for people to revoke the app’s ability to use your data, we are taking additional steps in the coming weeks to put people more in control of their privacy,” she said.

Facebook also introduced a new tool called “Access Your Information”, which allows users to access and delete posts, reactions, comments, and search history. In India, the settings are yet to be rolled out.

India seeks info from FB on data leak

India on Wednesday issued a notice to social media giant Facebook seeking to know whether personal data of Indian voters and users was compromised by UK based data mining firm Cambridge Analytica.

The notice issued by Ministry of Electronics and IT asked Facebook if Indian users data was compromised by Cambridge Analytica “or any other downstream entity in any manner, and if so, how was it compromised?”.

The notice to Facebook has sought to know “whether Facebook or its related or downstream agencies utilising social media company’s data have previously been engaged by any entities to manipulate the Indian electoral process.”

The company has been asked if any such downstream entity misused data from Facebook and what is the protection available to the data subject?

Facebook has been asked to give its response by April 7.