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Home / Social Media / How to Check If Your Facebook Data Was Sold Off

How to Check If Your Facebook Data Was Sold Off

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Facebook is working hard to rebuild its reputation after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This, for the uninitiated, saw the data of tens of millions of Facebook users sold to a third party. And that data was then used in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Facebook has started notifying people whether they’re one of the 87 million users affected. However, even if Facebook hasn’t notified you yet, you can check to see if you’re one of those affected, and do a privacy checkup while you’re at it.

Facebook Starts the Cleanup Operation

As part of its ongoing efforts to regain the trust of its users, Facebook is informing everyone whether they were caught up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Every single Facebook user should see one of two messages on their news feed.

The one for those affected gives a brief background to the incident. Facebook then assures users it’s “committed to confronting abuse and to putting you in control of your privacy”. Either way, you’re directed to the apps and websites settings.

However, if you’d rather not wait to find out if your data was accessed by Cambridge Analytica, you can follow this direct link instead. This will tell you whether, according to Facebook’s records, you or your friends logged into “This Is Your Digital Life”.

If you are one of the unlucky ones there isn’t anything you can do to reclaim that data from Cambridge Analytica. However, you can see what other apps and websites you’ve given permission to, and revoke their access to your Facebook information.

Revoking Access to Apps and Websites

Most people will be surprised by how many apps and websites they’ve accessed via Facebook. And while the majority won’t be doing anything underhanded with your data, if you no longer use the app or website in question you should revoke access.

This is just the start of Facebook’s cleanup operation. Mark Zuckerberg is facing congressional hearings, and it’s possible that politicians will try to rein Facebook in a little. In the meantime, some people are considering deleting Facebook altogether.

Facebook notifications

Starting Monday, Facebook said it will post detailed messages on the news feeds of some 87 million users whose data may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge. It released an example of the message, seen at right in the graphic below.

In addition, all 2.2 billion Facebook users will receive a notice titled “Protecting Your Information,” seen at left in the graphic below, with a link to see what apps they use and what information they have shared with those apps. If they want, they can shut off apps individually or turn off third-party access to their apps completely.


Examples of messages Facebook will show users about how apps use their personal data and whether their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.


Zuckerberg acknowledges “huge mistake”

Reeling from its worst privacy crisis in history — allegations that this Trump-affiliated data mining firm may have used ill-gotten user data to try to influence elections — Facebook is in full damage-control mode. CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that he made a “huge mistake” in failing to take a broad enough view of what Facebook’s responsibility is in the world. He’s testifying about it before Congress Tuesday and Wednesday.

In his prepared testimony, Zuckerberg referred to Facebook as “an idealistic and optimistic company” that “didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well.”

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here,” his statement said.

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, mainly echoed Zuckerberg’s remarks in a round of interviews last week.

“This was a huge breach of trust,” Sandberg said on CNBC. “People come to Facebook every day and they depend upon us to protect our data and I am so sorry that we let so many people down.”

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie previously estimated that more than 50 million people were compromised by a personality quiz that collected data from users and their friends. Facebook later put the figure at up to 87 million. In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Wylie said the true number could be even larger than 87 million.

That Facebook app, called “This is Your Digital Life,” was a personality quiz created in 2014 by an academic researcher named Aleksander Kogan, who paid about 270,000 people to take it. The app vacuumed up not just the data of the people who took it, but also — thanks to Facebook’s loose restrictions at the time — data from their friends, too, including details that they hadn’t intended to share publicly.

Facebook later limited the data apps can access, but it was too late in this case.

Zuckerberg said Facebook came up with the 87 million figure by calculating the maximum number of friends that users could have had while Kogan’s app was collecting data. The company doesn’t have logs going back that far, he said, so it can’t know exactly how many people may have been affected.

Cambridge Analytica said in a statement Wednesday that it had data for only 30 million Facebook users.


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