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Facebook users’ data still out in the wild: Report

Cambridge Analytica has been accused of influencing the result of the United Kingdom's 2016 Brexit referendum and of the 2016 American presidential election

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Facebook warned investors that there may be more such data breaches in the future. Pixabay
  • Facebook users’ data is still unsafe
  • Even after Cambridge Analytica’s claim that it has deleted the data
  • The data remains out in the open unsafe

Despite British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica’s claim that it has deleted data of over 50 million Facebook users, portions of the data is still out in the wild, the media reported.

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Facebook users’ data is still out in the open unsafe. VOA

According to a report in UK’s Channel 4 News, the cache of campaign data from a Cambridge Analytica source details 136,000 individuals in the US state of Colorado, “along with each person’s personality and psychological profile”.

“The data, which dates from 2014, was used by Cambridge Analytica to target specific messages at residents who would be most susceptible to them,” the report said.

Also Read: It’s too late for Facebook to regulate itself: Tim Cook

Cambridge Analytica had earlier claimed that it has erased the data from the public domain. The company received the user data from a Facebook app years ago that purported to be a psychological research tool, however, the firm was not authorised to have that information.

Cambridge Analytica has been accused of influencing the result of the United Kingdom’s 2016 Brexit referendum and of the 2016 American presidential election that brought Donald Trump to the White House.

Facebook invests big in Community Leaders Program. AFP
The leak has also been linked to many political scandals. AFP

In a recent appearance before British Parliament, ex-Cambridge programmer Christopher Wylie shocked delegates by stating that he had no doubt that his former employer had manipulated the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential election and broken the law. IANS

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More Than 87,000 Groups on WhatsApp Targeting Voters: Report

The task is enormous and the stakes are high

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

The first phase of voting begins from April 11 and WhatsApp – and not its parent company Facebook – has turned out to be the biggest social media platform for more than 87,000 groups to target millions with political messaging.

According to WhatsApp, over 20 crore Monthly Active Users (MAUs) are using its platform in India, but the fact is that these numbers are dated back to February 2017 and the company has not shared latest India numbers for over two years now.

India today has nearly 43 crore smartphone users, according to Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Research.

If we go by these numbers, 20 crore can’t be a right figure as almost every smartphone owner – from your grandpa to the maid at home — uses WhatsApp and is a potential target for the groups working round-the-clock to reach them.

“By the end of 2016, India had nearly 28-30 crore smartphone users. Today, it has crossed 40 crore.

“People across age-groups are using WhatsApp so it is safe to say that the Facebook-owned platform reaches over 30 crore Indians, almost to the size of Facebook users in the country or even bigger,” Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research, told IANS.

With Reliance Jio, data has gone ultra-cheap and political parties are now seen to livestream rallies, press meets and TV debates on Facebook and YouTube to reach their target audiences in the hinterlands.

“Over 87,000 groups aiming to influence the voters are currently active on WhatsApp. From fake statistics related to various government policies to news promoting regional violence, manipulated political news, government scams, historical myths, propaganda to patriotism and Hindu nationalism — WhatsApp has it all in the election season,” informed social media expert Anoop Mishra.

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FILE – The WhatsApp icon is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. VOA

One WhatsApp Group can have a maximum of 256 users so these 87,000 groups can reach over 2.2 crore people directly.

Now imagine one user from these groups forwarding one message to five (maximum forward limit on WhatsApp) and these groups can actually engage a much bigger audience in their mission to influence voters.

Realising the importance of curbing fake news, WhatsApp has launched several initiatives, from awareness programmes on dangers of fake news on TV, radio and digital platforms to limiting the number of forwards to five.

It has also tied up with the Nasscom Foundation to train nearly 1,00,000 Indians to spot false information and provide tips and tricks to stay safe on WhatsApp.

Also Read- Smart Speakers like Alexa and Google Home to Act as Aid to Physicians during Surgeries

“We’re pleased that the recent changes we’ve made to limit viral content and educate users is having an impact. This work is never done — there is more that we can and will do,” WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose said in a statement recently.

WhatsApp, including other social media firms, will now have to process any request from the Election Commission to take down content within three hours during the 48-hour period before voting days.

The task is enormous and the stakes are high.

“WhatsApp has been trying to curb the spread of fake news but has got a little success in doing so. Let us see how the things unfold as we enter the crucial election time,” added Mishra. (IANS)