Local expert and Facebook users weigh on recent data security breach

Roughly 87 million people have had their Facebook data stolen in a breach by Cambridge Analytica, and a local professor believes it could happen all over again if changes aren't made soon.

Posted: Apr 11, 2018 7:27 PM
Updated: Apr 12, 2018 11:56 AM

UTICA, NY-- Roughly 87 million people have had their Facebook data stolen in a breach by Cambridge Analytica, and a local professor believes it could happen all over again if changes aren't made soon.

"It doesn't surprised me, Facebook operates in a largely unregulated portion of the internet," said Michael McCarthy, director of data science, at Utica College. "It's actually totally expected that this would happen, and likely happen again, unless they really begin to self-regulate or unless Congress acts to regulate them."

File - In this April 4, 2013 file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The social media giant mishandled the breach that allowed Cambridge Analytica, the data analysis firm that worked with Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, to harvest information from as many as 87 million Facebook users. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finished two days of congressional testimony on Wednesday, about how his company protects - and does not protect - people's private information.

Zuckerberg thinks regulations of his company is "inevitable."

McCarthy said Facebook users should feel safe on the site, but warn them to be cautious.

"Facebook users should generally feel safe, but they should probably not feel that their data is any more private than it was before, until there is strong understanding of how exactly their data is being used and shared," he said. "Then they should feel safe, but they shouldn't feel any other data is private."

Utica resident Peter Pisani said his data wasn't compromised, but he's always been hesitant sharing his information using the social media site.

"I've always been wary of Facebook," Pisani said. "It's one of those things where you're going to make a choice, are you going to be on social media or not, if you're choosing to use Instagram Facebook what have you, understand that these things are happening and you're taking your own risks."

Rome resident Jennifer Stafford said she's tired of using the her computer to connect to others, and the recent data breach is just another reason to leave the site.

"I do use Facebook, but I'm more apt to leave it because of all the issues they're having," she said. "Everything seems like everybody is connected to Facebook instead of the world itself."

McCarthy said the company needs to comply with the European Union's privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation. Under the regulation, organizations are held to account for the personal data they hold and collect from people.

"There is a great model to follow the European Union is enacting the General Data Protection Regulation it starts May 25," he said. "It requires companies that collect data like Facebook or Facebook operating in Europe, to have a very clear consent language within their online user agreement. So that is probably where Facebook should begin to go and other online social media organizations as well."

Information provided by the Associated Press was used in this report. 

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