Facebook handed over data of 57 billion friendships to a researcher
Facebook came under scrutiny last week when it was revealed that data of 50 million Facebook accounts were illegally accessed by the data consultant for Trump’s presidential election campaign, Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerburg has admitted the fault at Facebook’s side and has said that they are working on new ways to prevent such things from happening in future.
Well, sadly this is not it. Alongside granting private data such as Likes and Interests detailed on Facebook profiles of these people, the social network has also handed over the dataset of 57 billion Facebook friendships around the globe to Aleksandr Kogan’s laboratory at the University of Cambridge, as reported by The Guardian.
The Guardian reports that Facebook handed over data of such a huge number to the researcher for a study on international friendships published in Personality and Individual Differences in 2015.
The Guardian’s report claim that data was comprised of “every friendship formed in 2011 in every country in the world at the national aggregate level”. Two Facebook employees were named as co-authors of the study, alongside other renowned researchers of academia.
Facebook has around 2.2 billion monthly active users and that “57 billion friendship” term refers to all the connection a single Facebook profile has made. For instance, if I have around 500 Facebook friends and all of my friends have 500 friends as well, then the total product of my friendships will be around 50,000.
Jonathan Albright, a researcher in digital journalism believes that;
“The sheer volume of the 57bn friend pairs implies a pre-existing relationship. It’s not common for Facebook to share that kind of data. It suggests a trusted partnership between Aleksandr Kogan/Spectre and Facebook.”
Facebook spokeswoman Christine Chen has said that “we ended our working relationship with Kogan after we learned that he violated Facebook’s terms of service for his unrelated work as a Facebook app developer”.
The social network giant has accused Kogan and the British company of executing a “scam” and “fraud” to harvest the data of 50 million Facebook users to target political ads. But for the most part, the Cambridge Analytica scandal appears to be business deal where both companies took advantage and manipulated users’ private date.