Facebook recently admitted to leaking personal information from up to 50 million of its users. The data was funneled off the social network in 2015 by a third-party app and was then handed to a political consulting firm, called Cambridge Analytica, for use in the 2016 election.
The news of the leak is coming out now, several years later, because a whistleblower named Christopher Wylie, who claimed to have worked on the program, came forward to dish the details. And it's a move, according to one data security expert, that could spark an uncovering movement.
"This problem that Facebook is facing is that #MeToo moment. Do I think something else will come up – other people are going to step and talk about it? Yes. It’s like #MeToo," San Jose State University engineering professor Ahmed Banafa told Circa. "People encourage people to talk about it and to tell us what’s the problem."
Facebook, in its public relations since news broke of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, has admitted that more leaks like it could have gone unnoticed in recent years. And Banafa believes that other data-collecting, ad-revenue-backed services like Twitter, Snapchat and even Google could be at similar risk of having leaks uncovered, since they all harbor personal data from their users, too.
"If you look at Google history, you can track whatever you do, all the searches. The same kind of thing we have on Facebook."
Many of these platforms even integrate third-party apps, like the one that Cambridge Analytica worked with to make use of personal Facebook user info without proper authorization, he explained, calling the very public dragging of Facebook a "wakeup call" for all of these services.
The answer to more transparency in how personal data on services like these are held and distributed could come with government regulation, experts are beginning to admit. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is even saying now that his social network would welcome some level of it. But seeing as that might take a while to come, in the meantime, a little self-regulation of what you, the user, gives over to these services is the smart way to go. You know – to make sure your sensitive info isn’t included in the next data leak whistleblower’s #MeToo outcry.
"Be careful what you’re posting," Banafa added. "There’s a saying in social media: if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product. Keep this in mind."