The issue of data-gathering has been pushed firmly into the public domain by recent scandals, with allegations that unauthorised data was used from a psychology quiz to target potential voters during the 2016 US Presidential election campaign.
Now Facebook, which has found itself embroiled in the matter, leading to CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has launched a data abuse “bounty programme”, inviting its users to help identify companies using unauthorised data.
Facebook has offered to reward those who successfully identify such cases of a so-called “data leak” between $500 and $40,000 for substantiated cases.
The social media website already pays out an average of more than $1m per year to users who help to identify and fix bugs in the platform.
Suggested cases of data leaks will be reviewed by Facebook’s in-house team, with possible actions including carrying out an on-site audit of the company that is buying or selling unauthorised data, shutting down the app or suing the organisation or person responsible.
The cases themselves must involve at least 10,000 Facebook users and show how data was exploited, and not just collected. Additionally, Facebook must not have been aware of the case previously.
“It will help us find the cases of data abuse not tied to security vulnerability,” Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, told CNBC. “This will cover both hemispheres and help surface more cases like Cambridge Analytica so we can know about it first and take action.”
Big data management
Social media platforms such as Facebook handle vast amounts of data. For example, in 2016 Facebook generated four petabytes of data per day through its 1.08 billion daily users. Facebook’s response to the issue has underlined the challenges facing companies that handle or process extreme data and a glimpse of the data privacy issues that will become more recognised and commonplace in the future.
However, the episode has also highlighted how seriously companies will have to take big data management in the future, particularly given the potential for reputational damage as a result of losing any degree of control.
One thing is for sure, though: the scrutiny will not end with Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Senators.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, the European Union said that considering the revelations surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, it would expand its investigation into how companies harvest personal data.
The Working Party 29, an umbrella group for the data protection authorities of EU member states, will establish a Social Media Working Group for future probes and strategies in this sector. According to the group, the Facebook case, which affected some 87 million people, is unlikely to be isolated.
“A multi-billion-dollar social media platform saying it is sorry simply is not enough,” the Working Party 29’s Chair, Andrea Jelinek, said. “While Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are on top of everyone’s mind we aim to cast our net wider and think long-term.”
However, whilst the challenges of extreme data are becoming well documented, the simultaneous opportunities of handling data efficiently and effectively, having obtained the required approvals, should not be forgotten.
Sound data management, including the categorising and handling opportunities offered by GeoSpock, will contribute towards protecting an organisation against the sort of issues that Facebook has been forced to face in such a public domain. However, it will also open up legitimate opportunities, not just for advertisers, but also in a swathe of other industries, from financial management to healthcare.
Without a grasp on big data, business opportunities will be lost and reputations could be jeopardised. The issue of personal data has never been so prominent in the minds of the mainstream media and the public at large. To stay in control with data management, many companies have no option but to act – fast.
Facebook bounty programme: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/10/facebook-will-pay-up-to-40000-if-you-find-a-big-data-leak.html
Facebook data usage 2016: https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/47-facebook-statistics-2016/
EU statement: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/12/eu-says-facebooks-apology-not-enough-as-it-announces-personal-data-investigation.html