On Tuesday, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was drilled for hours by dozens of U.S. senators during which he repeatedly apologized and promised privacy reforms but also pointedly defended his company against the threat of new legislation.
In recent times, Facebook users are increasingly getting worried about the privacy of the information they have shared on the platform since it came to light, thanks to a whistleblower, that data of millions of users were gotten by a research firm even though many of them did not directly grant Facebook or Cambridge Analytica direct access to their data.
In his address to congressmen, Zuckerberg decided to latch on Facebook’s unlikely journey — from a tiny start-up he co-founded in his Harvard dorm room 14 years ago to a social media behemoth — in explaining Facebook’s frequent privacy missteps and its failure to spot and defeat Russia’s aggressive campaign to manipulate American voters in 2016 and beyond.
Washington Post reported that US Senators repeatedly challenged Zuckerberg’s explanations in the wide-ranging hearing, a rare joint session before two Senate panels — the Commerce and Judiciary committees — with 42 senators questioning the Facebook executive.
In a move to show its commitment to be open in revealing users affected by the Cambridge Analytica app, the company issued an official statement and released the figures of Nigerians who were potentially affected.
According to Facebook, only 78 users in Nigeria installed the app but the total number of Nigerians affected are 271,469 which are friends of those who would have installed the app elsewhere in the world.
“We already show people what apps their accounts are connected to and control what data they’ve permitted those apps to use through app settings. We are putting a link at the top of people’s News Feeds to make sure that everyone sees it. Furthermore, it’s important for us to tell people if and how their data may have been access via This Is Your Digital Life,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
Nigerian President’s warm reception of Facebook’s CEO is, in the hindsight, now a subject of concern among tech expert regarding national security, particularly data privacy
Nigerian government may not understand what is really happening
In Nigeria, while there has not been any planned congress hearing yet, Garba Shehu, a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari said a government committee is looking into claims that SCL Elections, a Cambridge Analytica affiliate, organised anti-election rallies to dissuade opposition supporters from voting in 2007.
He said it would examine claims that Buhari’s personal data was hacked in 2015 when he was an opposition candidate in the presidential election.
The investigation would also look into whether Cambridge Analytica’s work for the election campaigns of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) broke Nigerian law “or infringed on the rights of other parties and their candidates”.
Depending on the outcome, criminal prosecutions might result, said Shehu.
Nothing has been said about the privacy of the data of over 270,000 Nigerians that the research group accessed, their identities and whether there is any national security threat which means that the fate of Nigerians on Facebook and other platforms owned by the company largely depend on efforts being made by the same company responsible for breach.
One of the things they may look out for on their Facebook page is an alert leading them to the apps setting where they can review the apps they’ve allowed to access to their data. Additionally, those potentially impacted by Cambridge Analytica will also see the alert which will then take them to see what data might have been shared.
With Nigerian being unable to put its feet on the ground and compel Facebook to take more specific actions about protecting the data of Nigeria, other global tech companies may also get away with similar data privacy abuses.
Furthermore, Nigeria is yet to reveal its position on the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), given the 25 May 2018 compliance deadline and tech companies in Nigeria that wants to target users in the EU must comply with.
“GDPR is a new European law designed to protect the privacy of citizens, by setting new standards in terms of how personal data is handled. As the law affects any organization with ties to Europe, it is relevant to businesses around the world,” said John Edokpolor, Lead Commercial Attorney, Microsoft MEA Emerging Markets.