Facebook never earned your trust and now we're all paying the price

News reports have been swirling about Facebook (a company you know), Cambridge Analytica (a company you might not have heard of), and the 2016 United States presidential election. It's an important story, but I've observed a critical misunderstanding or miscasting of the discussion in many media outlets, even those that are supposed to be tech-savvy. You've maybe seen this story described as a "breach" or a "leak."

The reality is far more distressing: Facebook basically gave away our profile data. The company has always made all of this data available, it just never expected it to be used like this.

Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and what happened

Cambridge Analytica is a data mining and analysis firm that specializes in delivering, to quote their mission statement, "Data-Driven Behavioral Change by understanding what motivates the individual and engaging with target audiences in ways that move them to action."

Which is to say, it uses profile data to tailor messaging and advertisements. This isn't a new concept — magazine, TV, and radio ads have long been customized to subscriber demographics. What's new is the breadth, depth, and precision of the targeting. The nature of the internet means that a huge amount of data about you is available for the taking, and you've given it all away.

Cambridge Analytica worked with the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump, using the data of 50 million Facebook users to target advertisements at voters that they believed to be receptive to the campaign's message. It was an effort unprecedented in politics, and how much it affected the vote is unanswerable. But there's little doubt there was an effect. But how did Cambridge Analytica get that much data?

How did the Trump campaign's digital operation get its hands on 50 million user profiles? Facebook basically gave away your info.

According to some excellent reporting by The New York Times, Cambridge Analytica built a personality survey app that required a Facebook log-in. That app was distributed by a compliant Cambridge University professor, who claimed the data would be used for research. This was entirely legal and in accordance with Facebook's policies and the profile settings of its users. That the data was passed from the professor to Cambridge Analytica was a mere violation of Facebook's developer agreement.

Around 270,000 Facebook users reportedly downloaded the survey app. So how did Cambridge Analytica harvest the data of some 50 million users? Because they were Facebook friends of people who downloaded the app.

How this happened

Facebook's policies and default privacy settings allow apps to collect massive amounts of profile data. That information is supposed to be used to provide you with a customized product; in reality, it's usually tailored advertisements. The most painful part is that we users opened the door to these apps — the user has to download the app and grant it permission to access their Facebook profile. It tells you right up front what data it wants access to.

Taking the survey required allowing access to your Facebook profile. Thanks to Facebook's default privacy settings (which only a small portion of users have changed) the survey app also pulled in the profile data of millions of Facebook friends. All of this data was forwarded to Cambridge Analytica, which rolled it up with data from other sources to build psychological profiles of potential voters.

Facebook is a business, but that business is not being a social network — the business is advertising.

Facebook says it cares about your privacy, but that's lip service. The company wants you to be just comfortable enough that you keep sharing. Facebook is a business, but that business is not being a social network — the business is advertising. The free social network that most Facebook users use is a conduit for collecting data and distributing ads. Facebook was designed to get you to hand over as much information and spend as much time on it as possible, all in order to deliver more and better-targeted ads.

How we got here

Years ago we, as a collective of internet users, made a grand bargain. Given the choice between paying for a subscription service or getting a service for free and dealing with ads, we chose free with ads. Except we paid with our data and we had no concept of its value. Facebook, Google, and others are all designed to gather more and more data, and they've become more and more effective at synthesizing that data and precisely targeting users. Google's free product is an incredible search engine, but the company logs all of those searches to build a profile of you and sell ads against that profile.

This is true of most companies built on a free service, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Spotify, even free tax preparation services. The real customer is whoever is buying your data or buying advertising slots based on your data.

If you're not paying for the product, then you are the real product.

That's just how the modern web works. What we've failed to grasp are the scope of all that data and its potential. But the people collecting it certainly did. They were playing a long game and they made it fun for users. We were happy to fill out our profiles, delighted to post about our interests, comfortable handing over our files, and just fine with logging our searches.

You know the phrase "knowledge is power"? In the twenty-first century, data is power, and whoever controls it writes the rules.

Consequences and the presidential election

None of this excuses Facebook or Cambridge Analytica. That your data was readily available for exporting and exploiting — via your friends — should both appall and infuriate you. But this was not a breach or a leak; it was an exploitation of Facebook's own tools and rules.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica will be hauled in front of Congressional committees for testimony. But what happened was not against any laws, and it's not clear if there will be any consequences beyond revoking Cambridge Analytica's access to new Facebook user data. (Facebook requested the data be deleted, but it has no way to enforce that request.)

No laws were broken; it's not clear if there will be consequences. But it was grossly negligent.

Your seemingly innocent and private profiles, musings, likes, and shares were all mined and assembled into a profile of how best to exploit your beliefs, fears, and hopes during the last election. It's disconcerting when this information is used for advertising; it's terrifying when that same data is used to sway the electorate.

Trump did not run a sophisticated traditional campaign. His traditional "ground game" was incredibly lacking, but he made up for it with loud media savvy (either by accident or by design) and a quiet and unprecedented online campaign that understood the power of your data better than any in the past. And now Donald Trump is President of the United States.

Data. Is. Power.

So what now?

This was the natural next evolution of the web we implicitly agreed to without understanding the trade-offs. Users and companies have reaped rewards from this data, but this level of abuse was only a matter of time.

Our society is built on trust, and when that trust fails we make laws. We trusted Facebook and the company gave away our data with an unenforceable developer agreement as the only safeguard. Facebook isn't alone — every company wants your data, and you should be reticent to trust any of them. It doesn't matter what company we're talking about — Google, Uber, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Tesla, Spotify, et al — they all want your data. Some are more judicious in how they handle it, but even if they're not selling your data they will use it to sell to you.

I won't tell you to delete your Facebook account, but I also won't stop you. Nobody has to have a Facebook account. If you want to keep using Facebook, review your privacy settings, your profile information, which apps you've authorized, and even what you're posting and liking.

Don't trust Facebook or any other company with data you wouldn't give to a complete stranger. Don't log in to apps or services with your Facebook profile — and if they offer no alternative, use something else. Don't take random Facebook quizzes. Think twice before posting any personal information online. We all need to be cognizant of the data we're giving out.

That's the short game. In the longer term, we need systems in place to protect everyone. Silicon Valley is not going to fix this problem; its leaders are too naive about the nature of the humans to realize it even is a problem. We have laws and regulations governing airplanes, pharmaceuticals, construction, shipping, and everything else under the sun. I'm not normally one to advocate for more regulation, but it's clear that today's laws were not written for the modern internet.

Silicon Valley is too naive to even realize this is a problem, let alone fix it on their own.

Digital companies will claim that current laws and regulations are enough and that new ones will limit innovation. New regulation will indeed increase costs, but as long as there is money to be made investments will not stop. Regulation didn't stop innovation in the automotive or aerospace industries, and it certainly won't bring tech innovation to a halt. Some coalition of tech companies will issue an "Internet Bill of Rights" or such and say its principles will be sufficient to protect users. We've seen such pledges before But anything short of federal law will be insufficient. The tech sector accounts for nearly one-tenth of the U.S. economy and is growing rapidly; it's in everybody's best interest for it to be sensibly regulated.

It's well past time that we demand tech companies act responsibly with our data. The internet of today and the hyper-customized AI services of tomorrow only work if we can trust them to respect and safeguard our data. We users need to get a better handle on what we're putting out there for free, what's being done with our data, and what we expect from the Facebooks, Googles, Amazons, and Apples of the world.

Either through negligence or malevolence, our implicit trust in these companies was misplaced. We need trust for all of this to work, and the only way for that trust to be restored is through concrete action and enforceable regulations.

Derek Kessler

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

  • Problem with the advice of checking privacy settings is they change constanlty. And when they do they tend to haphazardly reset to whatever the **** FB thinks you should have. Basically individuals should know they cannot be trusted. They have proven that without a doubt.The last time I logged in before deleting years ago I was shocked that people will wade through the endless wall of utter BS. 
  • This is exactly like most every app on Android! Why would I allow these apps access to contacts, pictures, microphone, etc. Only allow this access to apps that actually need that access to perform as intended!
  • wow, I am so glad I never used that log-in through  Facebook feature. it crazy how much access they were given not just on you but your friends to which is mind boggling
  • Obama used Facebook data as well for his campaigns. Let's not pretend this is a first time event, or that it turned the tide. I'm sure hillary had access to the data as well, probably directly from zuckerburg rather than a third party. But she will still add this to her list.
  • None of that is relevant to the point of this article.
  • Except the author said this use was unprecedented when the reality is it was just exposed.  Hell, this isn't even new with social media. Organizations have been compiling data on citizens since the beginning of the media age.  The problem is, people are apparently evolving to become more gullible, because you shouldn't be swayed in your beliefs by target ads.
  • They did not get it legally they used a third partyer app who and claimed to facebook it was for academic purposes which was not true for
  • No, maybe not so much with the article but what is going on out in the real world is. It is not the first time someone has done this. Actually Obama was the first.
  • Yep Obummer was the first and in fact Facebook gave all data for free to both that evil worst-president-ever sperm-on-his-face-in-so-called-presidential-portrait fast-and-furious-gun-runner my-muslim-faith never-mention-his-middle-name added-300-million-per-day-to-the-national-debt, as well as crooked hilldog. That means Facebook was acting as a Super PAC illegally. Cuckerberg is dumping stock. And he wants to run for president, for the disgusting democrats. #theytrustme <crude tag removed by mod>
  • Crude tag removed was a censored quote from the Cuck himself, and it's actually important that people know this is his attitude towards users. http://www.bing.com/search?q=zuckerberg+"they+trust+me"
  • I think its very relevant. At some parts of the article it was hard to determine whether the authors motivation was to expose the very poor Facebook standards or was this yet another politically motivated Trump bashing article? It was clearly both.
  • Trying to bash the most successful president ever is commercial suicide.
  • "most successful president ever".  I guess we know what "covfefe" means now: burying your head in the sand.
  • Name one president more successfull than Trump...
  • You're the one making the claim that Trump is the most successful president ever, therefore, the burden of proof is on you to prove the assertion. Though there are very few things in objective reality that say Trump has done any tangible good for the nation (apart for the 0.1%) so I understand it may be tough for you to come up with any reasons.
  • you can't prove one word of what you're saying
    so you're just deflect
  • According to Rush Limbaugh today, Hillary had the API's necessary to directly access the data without permissions needed. Sometimes you need to try a little harder to know what is actually happening.
  • They were also discussing on the program how proudly Obama's election team received and used the data Facebook provided, quite openly without anyone showing any outrage.  At the end of the day I am sure the Russians were involved with this.  I have never created a social media account and never will.
  • Edit, edit, edit...
  • Great source there. Totally unbiased and reliable.
  • LOL, there is no such thing as unbiased reporting. Pick your source and it leans one way or the other. 
  • Of course you can't be 100% unbiased, but you can certainly try to pick less biased sources (generally speaking).
  • Your unbiased source is someone elses biased source. That is the whole problem with the news industry these days.
  • hey guys, not sure what the original assertion was about the api, or about candidates using Facebook data in general, but here is a source that is pretty good: https://youtu.be/eIA1lQBqH1s?t=20s 
  • NPR pretty balance reporting
  • Yes, Washington, D.C. based "news" organization, partially tax payer funded.  Look through election history and see when the last time D.C. went for a Republican.  90% of NPR (or more) is hardcore left wing.  It is reflected in their programming, which is fluff crap.  When Obama won, you could HEAR them SMILE.  It was that obvious. NPR is the most biased "news" organization out there.
  • There is no difference between Republican & Democrat. They both work for the big corporations. This is where their money comes from. Trump was not part of their little cliche. Hence every media organization is against him. Well except Fox News but it would be too obvious if there wasn't one.
  • How about Obamas own staff member who admitted as such. If you haven't heard about it, blame the one sided media
  • Limbaugh is a partisan without quesiton but I was generalizing what cmattau90 is clearly pointing out.  Limbaugh was playing the audio tapes of the lady where noone cared what they did with your private data no less.  She was bragging about all the data the Democratic party mined through facebook and that the Republican party will never be able to acquire the same data.  Her words not mr partisan Limbaugh. This is not a political forum but this topic is a troubling one.
  • Agreed.
  • It was Maxine Waters: https://youtu.be/eIA1lQBqH1s?t=20s 
  • Nice one Bleached. The truest statement you have ever stated.
  • Rush Limbaugh as a source?  LMAO (respectfully).
  • He is more a source than Windows Central.  
  • Hmmm nope just nope... The bum at the corner of the street is a better source than rush....
  • Guess that's like saying CNN is right for saying Donald Trump shouldn't push an anti-opiate drug rehabilitation program simply because it used to do business with the Clinton Foundation.  Sorry, but the world just doesn't work that way.
  • From TheHill.com The former Obama director of integration and media analytics stated that, during the 2012 campaign, Facebook allowed the Obama team to “suck out the whole social graph”; Facebook “was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.” She added, “They came to [the] office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”  
  • Exactly.   All of these crocodile tears are ONLY being shed because Trump won.   If Clinton had won, no one would have cared.  
  • If crooked hilldog had won, any of us who survived would be living in a nuclear winter right now.
  • Obamas own staff member has come out and said as much. Sorry, if that's news to you. Blame the biased media
  • All Democrats and Republicans will. They're dishonest to the core and will do whatever it takes to win. They care about power, not people, not rights, and certainly not liberty.
  • I agree that democracy must be removed.
  • The government has been taking our liberty away slowly, bit by bit so we hopefully don't notice before it's too late.
  • Great article. The only way for that trust to be restored, I think, is Antitrust. These huge tech companies have a reckoning coming.
  • We are giving the future robot uprising a good platform to destroy us all. Lol
  • Every time I mentioned the data slurping, most of my family/friends poo pooed me. A lot though are actually aware of this, and accept it as a trade off. They "pay" nothing out, yet get a ton of stuff for "free".
  • This is all sad and worrying and stuff, yeah. But actually, there's nothing new under the sun. This is how it was always done. I mean, even here in Hungary, a country with 10 million people altogether, a "news" site, close to the governing partie, pays millions of euros to Facebook, to show videos of immigrants beating the sh"t out of white people as "ads"... Of course, the videos are all fake, but the elections are less than a month away, so who cares... King Orbân wants another four years on the throne... But actually, I'm glad, that google was mentioned in the article, because they do exactly the same thing. Now, I only trust a few companies, including Microsoft and Deezer. I have an MS account for like 12 years now, and there wasn't a single security flaw ever. And I pay for Deezer, so they only collect the songs I listen to, to make my flow relevant, and to make recommendations.
  • "Silicon Valley is not going to fix this problem; its leaders are too naive about the nature of the humans..." I have to disagree here, the people running the show are anyting but naive, and I believe you have to know human nature very well in order to become a leader - not a figurehead mind you.
  • Interesting to read conclusions like "If you are not paying for the product you are the product" from sites like WindowsCentral. The problem already starts with the internet media like this very site. How often did i had to ready arcticles suggesting readers to replace their Windows Phone with an Android Device as successor without a single warning about privacy issues of Google products? How often did i had to read here on Windows Central about this cool Google service without warning that user should stay away from this as far as possible?
  • Microsoft services are no different, even some of the paid ones. It would be hypocritical to claim any different. Microsoft ToS isn't much different from Google's.
  • But it is somewhat differrent.  Both companies data mine.  But you are Google's product, as their primary business is advertising.  Microsoft (and Apple) at least have other revenue streams making advertising ancillary to (and a small part of) their business plans.
  • It is ok they do the same thing as Google because Microsoft also charges you? I don't follow that logic.
  • Perhaps but Microsoft's mission is completely different as Google is an advertising company that profits on information. MS has allot more avenues for revenue and use the data they collect internally for projects not for profit. That is the difference here imo
  • That's 100% correct! Google is an advertising company, Microsoft is a software/hardware company and that's why you pay for Windows and not for Android.
  • You pay for Windows and it has data collection. You are ok with data collection if they charge you to do it? I do not follow that logic.
  • Lol paying for someone to collect your data! That's even worse. Better yet, paying Microsoft to collect your data. 
  • Google visited the Obama White House almost 500 times in the 8 years he was in office. I would like to know why???? But you know something? The government doesn't care and they have guns and the rights to use them if you do anything they don't like, say no paying your taxes? Bang! You want to protest Wall Street? Hey have some mace! You doubt the need for another war? Boom! We are being lead into Communism but most people are too busy just trying to get by to realize.
  • No one ever got in trouble for not having Facebook/Twitter/whatever. TBH, I just don't see the appeal of social media & I'm kind of surprised it's lasted as long as it has.
  • Are you also surprised that kids won't stay off your lawn?
  • Sadly, living in the desert doesn't provide much in the way of lawns. Honestly though, Facebook? What a joke of a concept, is there any inherent value in that thing? All people do is seem to complain about it.
  • Wait, that time is coming.
  • And some think that Windows 10 is bad when it comes to privacy...think again! : ) Microsoft does not makes sales from pure adverts, they make it from functional products..which is why they need feedback whether it be from users or automated by systems.
  • But what about Bing? That is Microsoft.
  • Microsoft makes it from both. Advertising revenue was up 15% last quarter.
  • Deleted Facebook long ago, although they of course don't make it easy to *really* delete things.  Frankly, besides all the shady stuff FB gets up to, what I found is sometimes the less you know about your friends and relatives...the better.
  • I guess Amazon will be doing this now with our Echos.
  • Google, like FB, you are the product...your personal data is very, very valuable.
  • I'm not shocked or surprised by any of this, what is funny is just how oblivious people that use Facebook are basically at these developments 🙄
  • You guys do realize FB has only information you wanna give them and those are as accurate as you want them to be... There is nothing wrong with FB and not using them to your advantage is retarded.... Guys with no social network account taking a higher ground are just laughable... They remind me the one still using feature phones with WAP while everybody was on smartphones.... I have 4 FB accounts none of which have accurate info about me.... And i don't have much to hide in the first place... Seriously what do you guys put on your FB that is so private ???
  • You dont get it.
  • Interesting that you never reported on this when Obama's campaign did this in 2008 and 2012.
  • Exactly.  This is just more "Let's undermine Trump" crap that has been going on since November 9, 2016.  
  • True.  Though Trump doesn't need anyone else undermining him, his sheer ineptitude and stupidity allows him to undermine himself easily enough.  You'd have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to not see that his presidency is an unmitigated disaster and almost everything he has done so far completely goes against a lot of the populist ideas he espoused during his campaign.  He has become a puppet of the GOP in that he will sign whatever overly-corporate-friendly policies they put on his desk.
  • He's so inept and stupid that he became a billionaire by luck, then by luck got voted into the presidency, then by luck accomplished more in his first year than Obummer did in eight years... I suggest you Bing the accomplishments Trump has done in his first year (of eight).
  • Hahahahhahahhahahahhahahahaha you are so silly it's sad. Obviously he became a billionaire by luck, seriously he got his money from his daddy and ever since mostly screwed up business way more than any competent businessman would. He accomplished nothing in his first year except put America's reputation in the gutter and **** up hopes of stopping global warming. He is the worst possible president. An incompetent man child who should never have been allowed any power in his life.
  • Lmao, he certainly did get lucky in those first two things: he inherited his wealth from his daddy.  He also never released his tax returns so we can't say for sure how wealthy he is.  He has had several bankruptcies and many of his business projects ended as failures (Trump steaks, Trump airplanes, Trump University):  See here for more (nonpartisan) info: https://www.snopes.com/news/2016/08/01/donald-trumps-bankruptcies/. Yes, Trump did run a decent campaign which peple could get behind.  Make America Great Again is a much better slogan than the ridiculous "I'm with her" slogan of Hillary Clinton.  But he won because a lot of different reasons, and HIllary lost because of a lot of different reasons.  And we don't know how much impact Russia had with its propaganda efforts in the U.S. election but they certainly did try to influence the election in anyone's favor so long as it wasn't Hillary The only "accomplishment" he has is the huge tax giveaway to the rich he signed after the GOP fought tooth and nail for it.  It goes against what Trump said during his campaign.  Sure, the average middle class family gets a couple of hundred dollars in savings but that is nothing compared to what the rich are getting from that bill.  
  • And shouldn't undermining the democratically elected president of the US be illegal? I think we should also look at why Robert Mueller is worth $18 dollars. Bet ya he's not so squeaky clean.
  • If trying to undermine the democractically elected President were illegal, Trump would be in jail for creating a (false) conspiracy attempting to delegitimize President Barack Obama by saying that he was not born in the United States.
  • Facebook is not just a business, it's a great tool that let's people collaborate and know a community of people in remote locations that can help you solve real life problems. when I studied my Masters Degree in Data Science, I found that there are great Facebook private free groups that you can join to ask questions that only specialists in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will give you real answers to your questions.
  • Yes Facebook can be a great tool for helping people connect but of course greed, money and power will use it for bad.
  • Obama did the same thing as Trump.  This is how politicians operate.  Figure out who you are and what you want.  Then, they promise to give you what you want.. So you vote for them.  Seems to me, all Obama and Trump did was use your data you have released to the public to find your friends and get them motivated to join you in voting.   So what.  If you are so stupid to let a social media platform to push in one direction, then you behave as a child and not an adult.
  • It's all coming apart. George Orwell and George Carlin would be equally proud.
  • "If you trust your government you obviously failed history class." George Carlin.
  • You people have no one to blame but yourselves. You give your information for free away on the internet, sometimes even Pay for the service to do it, and have the aduaicty to whine about privacy. If you want privacy, unplug your computer and stop leaving your house. Otherwise, welcome to the 21st century. Big Brother says hello.
  • "Facebook never earned your trust and now we're all paying the price". No, WE all are NOT paying the price. I have never been on Facebook, twitter, MySpace, or whatever other flavor of the month "social networking" scam sites exist. I have never even used my real name or address on web sites (such as this one) when creating an account to comment.  "Trump did not run a sophisticated traditional campaign. His traditional "ground game" was incredibly lacking, but he made up for it with loud media savvy (either by accident or by design) and a quiet and unprecedented online campaign that understood the power of your data better than any in the past. And now Donald Trump is President of the United States." Clinton's "ground game" was even worse. She spent SO much time partying with wealthy elites and Hollywood freaks, that she completely ignored key battleground states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio). Selling access to herself thru "The Clinton Foundation" was not a good idea either. Funny how that slush/bribery fund closed down 3 months after the election.  "It's terrifying when that same data is used to sway the electorate".  No, it isn't. If you seriously believe that the 2016 election was won/lost by Facebook ads and a dozen "Russian online trolls", then you simply do not understand what happened. Clinton was/is a horrible candidate, with no message at all, other than "vote for me because I am a woman". Her husband was impeached for perjury AND is a serial sexual predator. Why would anyone want these people in power again? I have a feeling that many people wouldn't be nearly so upset had the Democratic candidate won the election, even if the Democrats had used the same tactics (they probably did anyway). But the election is LONG over, and Trump won. Time to move on.
  • Sexual predator? Yeah, like Trump's voter base cares about that. He is also a serial sexual predator but obviously everything about him must be a witch-hunt and about Bill true. Hillary did have a message, just not as populist or clear--if you listened to the several debates, there was real policy discussed (and Trump's platform was also not much other than "build a wall!"). One of her biggest messages was "stronger together," which has nothing to do with being a woman but instead standing together in the face of all the horrible attacks that Trump and many of his voters in the alt-right had been making on people who don't fit a norm. Hillary was a bad candidate, yes, but she didn't lose by a landslide. She was already ahead by the popular vote. The whole ads and Russian troll thing that you undermine may very well have tipped scales. People have moved on but that doesn't mean we shouldn't care about something that changes circumstances of the election that happened or that continues to impact us now and in the future.
  • Hillary Clinton is a corrupt criminal and will be going to jail soon with her friends at the FBI.
  • Trump's friends are actually going to jail, the indictments have already been made. Trump might be next, the investigation isn't over yet. Hilary is old news. It is over. She lost because she sucks, but jail time is much more imminent for Trump. Not saying it will happen, but he certainly had sketchy friends and questionable Russian contacts.
  • Uranium One is still under investigation with the DOJ, Hillary is not out of the woods.  Yesterday the Leaders in the House and Intel committees in the Senate are calling for a Second Councel to investigate abuses of the FISA system and internal problems with the DOJ and FBI.  The witch hunt is eating itself soon.  If you only listen to CNN and MSNBC you will never hear about what is really happening.  Russia Russia Russia is not the story.  Whatever Mueller finds will be interesting but remember that "Collusion" is not a crime.  It's wrong just not a crime.  Manafort is the real problem and if they get anything on him besides tax evasion then burn him.  The history of what Paul Manfort created is disturbing regarding foreign lobbying.  I hope that the Mueller investigation will bring forward legislation that will stop any foreign money from buying political favors.
  • The "popular vote" does not matter.  Huge majorities in a few big cities does not elect the President.  You need broad support in lots of states, NOT deep support in a few states.  This is a Republic, not a Democracy.  
  • Anyone who didn't already know stuff like this was going on needs a reality check.
  • I never took the "personality test" and I dont know anyone who did.  Certainly no one in my family.  The news outlets are making it seems like everyone's data got out.   Also, I never even gave facebook my real name, and they never got any banking info, or a credit card.  
  • Told people this was happening all through the election. Nobody believed me. Suck it, idiots! You deserve whatever you get.
  • I've never had a Facebook account, as I am smarter than that.
  • Several comments in here correctly pointing out that Obummer (and crooked hilldebeast) had full access to all Facebook data, for free. Seems many readers of this article are more informed than the author. Is Mobile Nations committing commercial suicide? Stay tuned...
  • I'm just going to copy paste what i wrote on Android Central because the spread of fake news worries me greatly. This being a great example of fake news. I have a daughter on the way and no f*ing way would i want her to grow up in such a messed up world where you have blatant targeted fake news attacks like this. At least i can tell her i spoke up. The article should mention that Obama's campaign also used facebooks data for the same thing, and so did Hillary in 2016. As prove of this there is a leaked email by wikileaks from John Podesta to Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) stating that they are looking forward to working with each other to elect the first woman president of the US. https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/56638 The author should have been more honest in the article and/or should have done his due diligence.
  • Can someone explain to me why I should be paranoid about this? Isn't it better to have targeted ads? All things you see will be relevant to you and no annoyance from what you don't like. It's like you can tell the billboard companies that you are crossing that junction at certain time and you like to see this and that. Enlighten me if I'm just too blind to be panic about this reality.
  • I'm in the UK so give zero f*cks what any US election campaign could do with my data
  • Yes and we in the US of A thank you Brits for spying on US presidential candidates and stealing data from Facebook. You do understand that since it is against the law for the US or UK government to spy on their own citizens these two governments have each other spy on people just in case they get caught.
  • How about if they sent it to your pigs and you end up in jail for wrongthink...
  • More people need to take part in their government.
  • I read Tech Articles, often to avoid having political opinions inserted into everything we view. This piece is another media outlet poking at Trump. Stick to the message of data collecting and advertisement.
  • Windows Central should not be a Political Forum. You will antagonize just as many viewers as you will please. Keep the site about Tech.
  • So what exactly is the fuss all about? If people are stupid enough to be influenced by adds than you have much bigger problems to worry about in murica... They only used data that was shared legally so yeah if you cant blame Facebook at all. I personally could not care less about my personal interest being shared because not once I my life did I ever click on an add o Facebook or anywhere else.
  • I live my life out loud.  I'm completely transparent, for better or worse.  I've always been aware that people or companies can acquire massive amounts of data on people.  Generally, I don't care what they gather on me.  They can't invade my privacy because I'm not private.  I'm perfectly fine with that.  The only thing I am cautious about is certain PII that could result in identity theft.  But I've found over the years that more transparent and publicly I live, it's ultimately difficult to be the target---as soon as something might show up that seems out of character, it's really obvious.  The other thing this does is keep me always accountable, so if I do something wrong I'm quickly called out on it.  Again, I'm good with that.  Of course, I understand not everyone can live that way.  
  • Derek, great article (as usual). I'm with you through all of it, until you draw your conclusions at the end and call for government regulation. Just like in your article about the confusingly named “Net Neutrality” (a more honest name would be the Google and Netflix Support Bill), you completely miss the unintended consequences and hidden costs of these regulations. Even in the examples you give of where regulations have been helpful, like the auto industry, you neglect to also talk about the costs of those regulations. Every car’s price includes about $3k-$5k in regulation compliance (depending on the type of vehicle). Multiply that by the number of cars and trucks sold over the past twenty years. Still sure that the regulations have been worth their cost? The worst part is that these regulations always hit those with lower incomes the hardest, because the % change on a $15k car is a lot more than on a $50k car. Why are there no $2k, or even $5k, new cars? Government regulations. Why are railroads not profitable, which might have actually incented more development and reduced the use of cars? Government regulations. But wait, you say, we needed government to get involved and break up AT&T and foster the modern cell phone revolution. FALSE premise! AT&T was only a monopoly because …. yup, government regulations that prevented competition. AT&T had successfully lobbied for government protection, similar to how Google and Netflix got Obama’s administration to give them Net Neutrality without even holding a vote in Congress (at least AT&T got their protection via Congress, rather than protectionism from the executive branch). If the government starts regulating this, the easiest path would probably be something like Europe’s GDPR (effectively protecting rights to digital privacy). And I would acknowledge that’s not too bad, but it’s still adding a layer of extra work and cost to every startup company, meaning some that might have survived and become great contributors to our world and the digital landscape will not. Just like poorer people are hurt most by product regulations, smaller entrepreneurial businesses are hurt most by regulations, because they don't have the funds for the teams of lawyers needed to navigate them or the margins to handle the extra costs of compliance. I probably disagree with the majority of the leadership team at Facebook on political matters, but I fully support their right to run their business how they see fit. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to give them my business, which in turn creates an opportunity for a competitor to arise and better serve me. Aggregated with other users across our country and planet as a whole, those capitalist forces do more good than any amount of destructive regulations could ever hope to accomplish. I’m not opposed to all government regulations. I support laws that prevent assault, theft, and related personal crimes. I support regulation that prevents pollution (to a reasonable level). I actually think fraud ought to be much more harshly prosecuted than it is, because fraud undermines customers’ abilities to make sound choices, which is a big part of what drives creation of other regulations in the first place. We need courts to adjudicate these and protect the presumption of innocence and to resolve civil disputes between parties. We need police and military to use force where all other options fail. Those are all examples of government and regulation that even I can support. But every law and regulation takes away a little piece of our freedom, every government program takes money out of the system and uses it less efficiently, so the bar should be very, very high before we choose to add to it. Does the fact that it might be easier than some of us would like to give Facebook permission to share personal data we chose to give them reach that bar? Not even close.
  • if some rogue professor mishandled data and broke the terms of use how does that equate to Facebook giving away the data to cambridge?  wouldn't that make Facebook a victim of sorts in this too?
  • ApologyCentral.com.
  • This is exactly like most every app on Android! Why would I allow these apps access to contacts, pictures, microphone, etc!
  • @Tray D, I think the app situation is actually worse -- at least with Facebook, you can choose what information to share with others and even what you give Facebook in the first place. Many apps ask for access to all kinds of features that they really don't need, but if you want to use the app, you give it permission. These often include access to your phone's address book, camera, microphone, etc. I do it myself (if I want an app, I rarely don't install because of the permissions it requests), but it's disturbing. I still wouldn't want government getting involved, but I would like it if Apple, Google, and Microsoft all adopted app policies prohibiting apps from seeking access to any personal functions or data not critical to their operation.
  • How/Why are "we all paying the price"? Because Trump won? Would you be saying this if Clinton had won? Or would you now be praising Facebook for "helping Democracy"?