No need for NZers to delete Facebook – NetSafe

Thousands of New Zealanders‘ data was exposed in the Facebook data breach, but while it is a reminder to take privacy seriously there‘s no need to quit the platform altogether, NetSafe says.

Facebook Photo: 123RF

Facebook today revealed it estimated nearly 64,000 New Zealanders were estimated to have had their data collected and used by Cambridge Analytica. The company is accused of using private data to personally target voters to manipulate elections.

A spokesperson for the social media giant said 87 million people were estimated to have been affected by the “Cambridge Analytica data misuse” worldwide, with more than 80 percent of those based in the US.

The data was apparently obtained via the “thisismydigitallife” personality test on Facebook and pulled in information about users‘ friends liked without their explicit permission.

“For New Zealand, we estimate a total of 63,724 people may have been impacted – 10 are estimated to have downloaded the quiz app with 63,714 friends possibly impacted,” the company said.

The spokesperson said that from Tuesday the company would begin showing users which apps they connected to at the top of their Facebook feed, and an easy way to delete them.

“As part of this, we will let people know if their data might have been accessed by Cambridge Analytica,” the spokesperson said.

“We‘re dramatically reducing the information people can share with apps. We‘re shutting down other ways data was being shared through Groups, Events, Pages and Search.”

Last month, Facebook acknowledged that personal information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica is accused of selling the personal information of Facebook users to influence the US presidential election and the Brexit referendum.

The British-based consultancy has denied wrongdoing. It says it engaged a university professor “in good faith” to collect Facebook data in a manner similar to how other third-party app developers have harvested personal information.

In a statement last week, the company said it licensed data for “no more than 30 million people from GSR [the company which developed the quiz app], as is clearly stated in our contract with the research company.

“Our contract with GSR stated that all data must be obtained legally, and this contract is now a matter of public record. We took legal action against GSR when we found out they had breached this contract.”

“We are now undertaking an independent third-party audit to demonstrate that no GSR data remains in our systems.”

NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker said he did not think Facebook users needed to shut down their accounts following the revelation.

Mr Cocker said the breach was a reminder for Facebook users to take their privacy settings seriously, but not necessarily to quit the social media platform.

“Facebook has responded to this breach by setting up a series of tools and improving their management of apps and if anything the breach has lead to a safer Facebook in the future.”

Mr Cocker said that by and large, Facebook users were satisfied with the service they got for price they paid in terms of the data they shared with the platform.

He said the issue was that the app was allowed to be so intrusive in the first place.

“I mean, absolutely users probably allowed it but most of them probably would not have realised what they they were allowing and that‘s the issue, that when we sign up to things that say ‘can I have permission to do something‘ that mostly we don‘t fully understand what that is that they are asking.”

Mr Cocker said Facebook‘s major mistake was trusting one of the app‘s providers.

“I mean, they set rules which govern those providers: That they can‘t take more data than they require in this way, and that they can‘t share data with third parties but, you know, they did.”

Mr Cocker said the message to Facebook was that it needed to use more than just rules to ensure providers not take advantage.

In the meantime, he said Facebook users could take steps to protect themselves.

“We‘ve tended just to sign up and use it, but Facebook is pretty good if you go into the privacy settings and the security settings on Facebook, they are kept pretty straightforward and the language is quite clear and they explain what it means when you set things up in a particular way.

“It‘s just there is a lot of things to set and it is a little bit of a process, and most people don‘t want to invest the time.”