One of the biggest stories this past week has been Aleksandr Kogan improperly using Facebook Data to help Donald Trump during his presidential campaign. Using online surveys, he was able to not only gather information on millions of users but also gained access to private messages, information on their friends and even friends of friends. This of course has led to widespread condemnation with many saying its time to delete your Facebook account (including WhatsApp founder Brian Acton who made Billions selling WhatsApp to Facebook). For his part Mark Zuckerberg has said he is sorry that the incident happened while stopping short of accepting responsibility himself, pointing the blame at Kogan for any wrong doing.
Kogan, who works at Cambridge University, should know better, having to adhere to the University’s strict code of ethics when collecting data from individuals and should certainly be condemned for his behaviour, Facebook cannot be blameless just because it did not extract and use the data itself. Zuckerberg has created a goldmine of data that could become dangerous or abused if put into the wrong hands and thus must always be one step ahead of anyone trying to misuse their platform and when they fail to do so must acknowledge their failure.
This incident has also brought back the discussion of regulating Facebook and other digital companies, something first attempted by the Obama administration in 2011 and Zuckerberg has at least hinted in his CNN interview that he would be open to such legislation. However, if various governments followed through on their threats, it would do very little to change the status quo mainly because Facebook already has very stringent regulations for those wishing to mine Facebook for data. Its enforcement of these policies is certainly up for debate however after learning of this misuse by Kogan, they demanded his company delete the information but never really followed up to verify if they had done so as reports from the New York times suggested they never complied with Facebook’s request.
Being as big as Facebook is and the headache this controversy has caused I believe Facebook will likely make its regulations stricter and increase its enforcement. While it is disappointing that they will not directly take responsibility for this breach, for those worried about keeping their Facebook account active I would not be too concerned, if on the other hand you wish to delete your account as some sort of punishment that is simply something you will have to decide yourself.