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The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and data protection

The breach

Social media behemoth Facebook is currently at the centre of a massive data protection scandal. The breach is top news across the globe, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg appearing before the US Senate today. The scandal concerns the details of 87 million Facebook users which were collected by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm. The data was then used to influence voter opinion in high profile political events, like the 2016 Brexit vote and the 2015 campaign of US politician Ted Cruz.


Mark Zuckerberg has apologised, and admits that it is a ‘breach of trust’ for the massive platform. Zuckerberg has also published a personal letter in various newspapers apologising on behalf of Facebook. As discussed, Zuckerberg testified before the US House Committee today explaining Facebook’s role in how Cambridge Analytica came to have those details. Interestingly, Facebook have now confirmed that they will follow the guidelines of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in all areas of operation, not just the EU.


In light of this breach, it is important to discuss data protection. This is especially important due to the imminent implementation of GDPR. Please find some of the main changes that GDPR will bring regarding handling data;

  • Companies covered by GDPR will be more accountable for the data they hold.
  • There should be documentation of why information is being held.
  • Consent must be obtained when communicating with customers (‘opt-in’).
  • Individuals have more of a right to find out what is being held about them.
  • Personal data can be erased in some circumstances if an individual demands it.
  • Fines can and will be issued to any business in breach of GDPR, and the more serious the infraction, the higher the penalty.

For a more comprehensive overview of GDPR, click here.

Going forward

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal has shown us how dire a data protection breach can be for a business. Mark Zuckerberg is currently trying to rebuild Facebook’s damaged reputation, but many will have lost faith in the company. It is important that data protection guidelines are adhered to, as they are in place to protect both consumers and providers alike.

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