It is the biggest data news story around currently – the scandal regarding data misuse between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.


What happened?

Cambridge Analytica, who conduct data mining and analysis, are accused of harvesting the personal data of millions of people (via a Facebook online quiz) and then using this data to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum.

An online Facebook quiz invited users to find out their personality type, which harvested not only the users’ data, but also that of their friends. Consequently, because 270,000 people took the quiz, the data of 50 million users was harvested, without their explicit consent.

This data was then allegedly sold to Cambridge Analytica, who used it to psychologically profile people and then deliver pro-Trump material to US citizens.

Cambridge Analytica boss, Alexander Nix, was filmed by an undercover Channel 4 reporter, apparently explaining how the firm could discredit political rivals.


How was the data misused?

Aside from the obvious; that the data was collected without consent of most individuals, there are other data issues here.

·         The people taking part in this quiz, would have had no idea that their data was potentially being shared with Donald Trump’s election campaign.

·         Facebooks terms at the time allowed for developers to take advantage of data gathering, however it didn’t give authorisation for the data to be shared.

·         It is still unclear whether the data has been properly destroyed.


What are the consequences for Facebook & Cambridge Analytica?

Alexander Nix (Cambridge Analytica CEO), has been suspended according to a Press Lease made by the company and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been called on by a Commons parliamentary committee to give evidence regarding the “catastrophic failure”. 

Both Facebook and the UK Information Commissioner want to find out whether the personal data involved was properly destroyed.

 UK's Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she would be applying to court for a warrant to search the offices of Cambridge Analytica.

 Facebook shares fell by a further 3% on Tuesday, following a 6.7% drop on Monday which wiped almost $37bn from its market value.


What Can We Learn?

 GDPR may seem like an unnecessary inconvenience, but in reality there is an urgent need for our data laws to be updated, to protect data subjects in this growing digital age, and this is where the GDPR comes into its own.

 With the compliance deadline just around the corner (25th May), cases such as this remind us all just how much data has been collected about us and how little control we currently have over it and its use.


We can also take this example as a warning. Non-compliance of the new GDPR, resulting in data misuse, could not only attract hefty fines, but also risk the reputation of your business. We can see this in the dropping value of Facebook shares, and the #deletefacebook trend which is quickly developing traction on Twitter.


Effective personal data management is not just good practice, but essential in all business practices. Make sure you are not caught out!