There may be more than 87 millions Facebook users whose personal data was shared with the research firm Cambridge Analytica, and they deserve a cut of the money Facebook made off ads using that information, a former employee of the research company said Wednesday in an interview with Cheddar.
“Facebook allowed companies all around the world to do this,” said Brittany Kaiser, a former director of business development at Cambridge Analytica. “They were definitely encouraging it.”
Kaiser was the second whistleblower to speak about her former employer and testified about the scandal in the British Parliament on Tuesday.
Facebook has acknowledged that an app by a third-party developer had harvested the personal data of millions of users, most of them in the United States, and shared it with Cambridge Analytica without users' consent and in violation of Facebook's terms of service. The research firm had worked with President Trump’s campaign team in 2016 to help the campaign target political ads.
The ensuing scandal prompted Facebook to make changes to its policies as far back as 2014, to protect users' personal information, the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress last week.
But Kaiser said the changes weren't designed to protect users, they were intended to protect Facebook. “They didn’t close the data API to protect their users, they closed the data API because they realized how valuable personal data is and they wanted to monetize it for themselves,” she said.
“The closing of the API started something called the ‘Walled Garden,’ which means you can’t buy raw data, you can only purchase advertising that uses the data that they have on file in order to target you,” said Kaiser.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal has heightened scrutiny of Facebook and other Silicon Valley firms, including Google, which Kaiser said could be sitting on 35 times the user data that Facebook has.
Lawmakers in the U.S. and Britain are scrambling to figure out what kind of regulation, if any, should be used to rein in the tech industry. Kaiser said giving users a cut of the money that the technology companies make off their information would be a start.
“I believe individuals should have access to their data as their property,” she said. Since technology companies get most of their profits from their users they should, “share some of that with the people creating the value.”
For full interview, click here.
Correction: An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the timing of Mark Zuckerberg's appearance before Congress. He testified last week, not last month.