NEWS
09/04/2018 11:53 SAST | Updated 09/04/2018 12:13 SAST

Facebook App Data Mining May Affect Up To 60,000 South Africans

Cambridge Analytica may have harvested and shared data from even more Facebook users than was originally thought.

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The estimated number of Facebook users whose data was harvested and shared by the political research firm Cambridge Analytica has reportedly increased from 50-million to as many as 87-million.

A report by Business Day claims that of those 87-million users, 60,000 are in South Africa.

The report states that 33 South African users installed and shared an app believed to have been used to harvest data by Cambridge Analytica. A Facebook spokesperson says 59,777 users of the social network were "poitentially impacted" through their friendships with people who had installed the personality quiz app.

The app was created by a Cambridge University researcher in 2013, and was installed by about 300,000 people – who shared their data as well as some of their friends' data.

World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said that Cambridge Analytica had clearly violated ethical standards and surrendered its reputation to entities focused on the disruption of democracy.

"Its behaviour was nothing short of criminal. However, Facebook played an enabling role, and a mere apology is not enough to exonerate it," Goldstuck said.

The social network's CEO Mark Zuckerberg will this week continue his apology tour – he is expected to hold meetings with some U.S. lawmakers on Monday, a day before he is due to appear at Congressional hearings over a political consultancy's use of customer data, two congressional aides said on Sunday.

Last week Zuckerberg said he was confident that given their analysis, not more than 87-million people had been affected – although it could be fewer.

"It's clear now that we didn't do enough. We didn't focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools to do harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, hate speech, in addition to data privacy," Zuckerburg said.

According to Reuters, the meetings will include some lawmakers from committees before whom Zuckerberg is due to testify. It is only after these meetings that users around the world will find out if their details were shared with the political consulting firm.

The firm said affected users would receive a detailed message on their news feeds. Zuckerberg is also scheduled to appear before a joint hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on Tuesday, and the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

Facebook took Cambridge Analytica at its word that the company had, in fact, deleted the data harvested from up to 87-million users ― but maybe it should have followed up to verify this data was actually deleted.

Zuckerberg didn't rule out the possibility of legal action against Cambridge Analytica, but said Facebook will do a full audit first, to determine what happened to the data and when.