Media Moves

Coverage: Facebook ups number of users with data shared to 87 million

April 5, 2018

Posted by Chris Roush

facebookFacebook said on Wednesday the number of users whose information was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica is 87 million — higher than previously reported estimates of 50 million — and said “most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped.”

Sara Salinas of had the news:

Facebook issued the number in a lengthy post by CTO Mike Schroepfer about its privacy changes, which include restricting third-party app access and deleting phone call and text information that’s over a year old.

Facebook also said it’s ending a feature that lets users search for a profile using a phone number or personal email, and suggested that bad actors have abused the ability and taken information from personal profiles as a result.

“Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way,” Schroepfer said in the post. “So we have now disabled this feature.”

Cambridge Analytica was accused of improperly gaining access to personal information of Facebook users, spurring legal probes and changes to Facebook’s privacy policies.

Issie Lapowsky of Wired reported that the company believes the number is not higher:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week, addressed the updated numbers in a call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. Zuckerberg explained that over the last few days, the company took stock of all of the people who used the thisisyourdigitallife app and analyzed the maximum number of friends they had during the period of time when the app was live. “We didn’t put out the 50 million number. That came from other parties. We wanted to wait until we had the full understanding,” Zuckerberg explained, adding, “I’m quite confident it’s not more than 87 million.”

This is not the first time Facebook has had to publicly increase previous estimates of misdoings on its platform. On Tuesday, as news broke of an active shooting at YouTube’s San Bruno headquarters, Facebook published another blog post announcing it had uncovered and shut down nearly 300 additional Facebook and Instagram accounts and pages linked to the Russian propaganda group Internet Research Agency. It has also previously left Instagram out of its published numbers of how many people were exposed to Russian propaganda, only to update those figures without public notice later.

While Facebook has cracked down specifically on Cambridge Analytica, it is clear that company is only a convenient example of a far more pervasive problem.

Sarah Frier of Bloomberg News reported that Facebook’s shares rose after Zuckerberg talked:

He defended the company’s advertising business model, confirmed he wants to stay in charge and disclosed no “meaningful impact” from an online campaign by some users to delete their Facebook accounts. Facebook stock rose almost 3 percent in extended trading, after closing at $155.10 in New York.

About 270,000 people downloaded a personality quiz app and shared information about themselves and their friends with a researcher, who then passed along the information to Cambridge Analytica, in a move that Facebook says was against its rules. Facebook reached the 87 million figure by adding up all the unique people that those 270,000 users were friends with at the time they gave the app permission. Facebook made the new disclosure in an online posting Wednesday.

Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, said it licensed data on 30 million people, countering Facebook’s 87 million estimate. Cambridge Analytica said in a tweet that it “immediately deleted the raw data from our file server, and began the process of searching for and removing any of its derivatives in our system” after Facebook contacted them to let them know data had been improperly obtained.

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