Facebook data mining scandal widens as federal investigation launched, stock plummets

NEW YORK — It’s the data snatch-and-grab scandal that’s getting bigger by the day.

Facebook continued to feel the heat Wednesday after it was revealed that personal information from 50 million users was improperly obtained by the analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by then-candidate Trump’s 2016 campaign.

That data was later used for political purposes leading up to the presidential election.

“These are the dark arts of espionage and we’re just watching what’s happening,” said Ian Wishingrad, a trend expert specializing in social media.

In response to the news, Facebook insisted the misuse of data was solely the result of abuse by Cambridge Analitica.

Tactics used by the London-based firm were exposed by then-contractor-turned-whistleblower Chris Wylie.

According to him, Cambridge Analytica obtained data on tens of millions of U.S. Facebook users using a third-party service.

Those users were then asked to take a personality test. Their answers placed them in categories and it was combined with their voter history, online purchases, where they shop and even what they watch on TV.

That gave the firm enough info to predict the personality of every adult in the United States and then target them with specific political ads.

When users agreed to take the survey, they inadvertently gave Cambridge Analytica access to not only their data but also that of their Facebook friends.

“When it pulled the Facebook friend data, it wouldn’t ask the friends if they could get permission, it just pulled it,” Wylie said in an interview with The Guardian.

While many have likened the targeting strategy similar to one used by the Obama campaign in 2012 election, Wishingrad noted that there was a huge difference.

“There’s a very big difference between using the platform and playing it well and having good people that know how to do proper buying and targeting on social media as opposed to people illegally compromising and take the account information,” he said.

As questions mount on whether Facebook did enough to protect users’ personal information, the Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into whether the social networking site violated the agency’s consent decree on data privacy.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Tuesday that his office was launching an investigation.

The news of yet another data purge left some users feeling jaded.

“I’m not really surprised they use our information for other things,” Marcus Jackson told PIX11 News. “It’s a free service. What do you expect?"

As this scandal widens, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has remained silent.

He will eventually have to answer questions, as lawmakers in both the U.S. and UK are calling on him to testify on the matter.

Since news broke about this data purge late Friday, Facebook stock has suffered significantly. As much as $50 billion has been reportedly wiped off it’s market value.