Facebook users who are victims of Cambridge Analytica feel like they 'were used'

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday. Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Earlier this week, Facebook (FB) started notifying 87 million users that their personal information was improperly harvested by political data firm Cambridge Analytica.

Yahoo Finance spoke to three current Facebook users who were affected. All three expressed frustration and disappointment over the violation of their privacy that resulted from Cambridge Analytica acquiring Facebook user data sold by researcher Aleksandr Kogan. Kogan had developed a personality quiz app on Facebook called This is Your Digital Life that surveyed 270,000 users, but because of the high level of access Facebook gave developers at the time, Cambridge Analytica was able to harvest the data of the friends of those 270,000 users, affecting up to 87 million individuals in all.   

One of those affected individuals, Tonoccus McClain, a Los Angeles-based musician and actor and longtime Facebook user, received a notification on Facebook’s mobile app early Wednesday morning letting him know the This Is Your Digital Life app “may have misused” some of his information by sharing it with Cambridge Analytica. That information was “limited” to information visible on his public profile, Page likes, his birthday and the city where he currently lives.

Source: Facebook.com

McClain did not use the This is Your Digital Life app, which means one of his friends must have and that eventually led to Cambridge Analytica getting its hands on his data. Facebook has banned the app.

“Why was I chosen?” wondered McClain. “I feel like we were used. I really feel like we were used. The good old days of hopping on Facebook and having a good time and catching up with friends is over. To think I could have had a hand with getting Donald Trump in the White House. Mark Zuckerberg has got a lot of work to do.”

Another Facebook user, who asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, expressed disappointment that his account was also affected. However, because he had held several jobs in the tech industry over the years, he wasn’t exactly surprised.

“I’ve seen my friends in tech using all kinds of apps on Facebook,” the Facebook user told Yahoo Finance. “But there are always a few people who don’t understand what’s going on.”

Justin Hendrix, executive director at NYC Media Lab in New York City, wasn’t shocked his account was affected either. Although Hendrix made a conscientious decision to dial back his use of Facebook several years ago — ”I felt like I was giving Facebook more than Facebook was giving me” — he was still frustrated to learn his data had been misappropriated.

Hendrix also expressed disappointment in Zuckerberg, who testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday and Wednesday. During his testimony, Facebook’s chief executive admitted that Cambridge Analytica was one of a “handful” of outside parties researcher Kogan sold Facebook user data to. Previously, it was thought Cambridge Analytica was the only firm Kogan had sold data to. During the hearings, Zuckerberg could not specify how many other apps had obtained data.

“That’s it,” Hendrix said. “Your data is gone. It’s out there.”

If anything, however, Hendrix says he feels more compelled to advocate for online user privacy. Just hours after Facebook disclosed the Cambridge Analytica data breach on its site in March, Hendrix went live with Regulate Social Media, a personal project and website he hopes will foster discussion and civic action as Facebook and other tech companies navigate issues around user privacy and accountability.

“We need to start thinking about what the next generation of a Cambridge Analytica might look like,” added Hendrix.

Still, none of the Facebook users Yahoo Finance spoke to said they would actually delete their Facebook accounts — a movement that recently gained more steam following Cambridge Analytica — although Hendrix concedes he deleted his accounts for several apps and services, including the social ranking service Klout, which he had linked his Facebook account to. That trend dovetails with Facebook’s more recent user growth stats suggesting that most people don’t feel compelled to actually delete their accounts despite the social network’s myriad scandals.

Facebook did not immediately respond to Yahoo Finance’s request for comment.

JP Mangalindan is the Chief Tech Correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to jpm@oath.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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