Cheyenne Macdonald | The Daily Mail | Source URL | Blog Archive

More and more key players in the tech industry are voicing their concerns over the use of personal data following Facebook‘s massive Cambridge Analytica scandal. 

Executives from Apple Inc and IBM Corp have called for more oversight on how personal data is used following the consultancy firm’s improper use of data, which affected more than 50 million Facebook users.

Speaking at the three-day China Development Forum in Beijing, Apple chief Tim Cook said ‘well-crafted’ regulation was required, while IBM Corp chief Virginia Rometty said users should have more agency over their own data. 

Facebook has come under intense scrutiny from users, lawmakers and investors following allegations from a whistleblower that it allowed British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to improperly use data and build voter profiles that were later used to help elect U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

U.S. lawmakers on Friday officially requested that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg explain at a congressional hearing how user’s data was released to the consultancy.

The breach has sparked intense debate over the responsibility of large tech firms to properly inform users of how their data is used.

‘If you’re going to use these technologies, you have to tell people you’re doing that, and they should never be surprised,’ IBM chief executive Rometty said on Monday.

‘(We have to let) people opt in and opt out, and be clear that ownership of the data does belong to the creator,’ said Rometty.

The comments followed similar sentiments expressed by Apple’s CEO this weekend, as he warned the situation has become ‘dire.’ 

‘It’s clear to me that something, some large profound change is needed,’ said Apple chief Tim Cook on Saturday.

‘I’m personally not a big fan of regulation because sometimes regulation can have unexpected consequences to it, however I think this certain situation is so dire, and has become so large, that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,’ said Cook, who co-chaired the event this year.

It comes as China, where the forum was held, is also looking to bolster personal privacy regulations following a series of missteps by leading tech firms including search firm Baidu Inc and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd payment affiliate Ant Financial.

‘China has become increasingly more aware of this problem and have been enforcing the relevant laws more definitely and strongly,’ said Baidu chief Robin Li at the same event on Monday.

‘I think the Chinese people are more open, or less sensitive about the privacy issue. If they are able to trade (privacy) for convenience, safety or efficiency – in a lot of cases they are willing to do that,’ said Li.

In January a consumer group from Jiangsu in east China filed a lawsuit against Baidu claiming the firm was illegally collecting personal data.

What is the Cambridge Analytica Scandal?

Communications firms Cambridge Analytica has offices in London, New York, Washington, as well as Brazil and Malaysia.

The company boasts it can ‘find your voters and move them to action’ through data-driven campaigns and a team that includes data scientists and behavioural psychologists.

‘Within the United States alone, we have played a pivotal role in winning presidential races as well as congressional and state elections,’ with data on more than 230 million American voters, Cambridge Analytica claims on its website.

The company profited from a feature that meant apps could ask for permission to access your own data as well as the data of all your Facebook friends.

This meant the company was able to mine the information of 55 million Facebook users even though just 270,000 people gave them permission to do so.

This was designed to help them create software that can predict and influence voters’ choices at the ballot box.

The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.

This information is said to have been used to help the Brexit campaign in the UK.

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