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Facebook users to learn if they were part of privacy scandal

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The Facebook logo is displayed at Paris’ Station F in France on Jan. 17. Facebook is on the offensive to try to contain swirling concerns about how it protects the data of its 2.2 billion members.

NEW YORK >> Facebook is scheduled to begin notifying users today if their data has been swept up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but it isn’t clear if it’s started yet.

The 87 million users who might have had their data shared with Cambridge Analytica were supposed to get a detailed message on their news feeds starting today. Facebook says more than 70 million of the affected users are in the U.S., though there are over a million each in the Philippines, Indonesia and the U.K.

In addition, all 2.2 billion Facebook users will receive a notice titled “Protecting Your Information” 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.

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 set to testify before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In prepared remarks released by a House committee, Zuckerberg said the company has notified all users affected in the scandal. Since the remarks are for Wednesday morning, this means everyone who was affected should see a message by then.

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. In an interview 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 — 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 last Wednesday that it had data for only 30 million Facebook users.

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