Facebook says the information of up to 87 million people — including 311,127 Australians — may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.
The new figures are higher than the initial media reports that the Facebook data of 50 million people was harvested and handed over illegitimately to Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics company behind Donald Trump’s digital advertising campaign during the 2016 US election.
Update: In response to the disclosure, the Australian Privacy Commissioner has opened a formal investigation into Facebook.
The 87 million figure is the worst case scenario for Facebook, it is the maximum number of users impacted by Aleksandr Kogan’s app Thisdigitallife, which was able to collect information on the Facebook friends of the 270,000 users who downloaded the app.
Cambridge Analytica disputes Facebook’s figures. It says it “licensed data for no more than 30 million people from GSR, as is clearly stated in our contract with the research company.”
The UK-based group says it didn’t use any of the data in question during the US presidential campaign and it deleted the data once Facebook informed the company it had been improperly obtained. The UK information commission is investigating the matter.
Facebook says it will begin notifying users whose data was obtained by Cambridge Analytica on April 9 by showing them a link in the top of their newsfeed. The social media giant is also in the process of conducting an audit to see if any other app developers inappropriately used Facebook data before it tightened up its API access in 2014.
The company has also announced further changes to its platform for developers, restricting APIs for Facebook’s Events, Groups, and Pages as well as Facebook Login.
Last week Facebook announced it was shutting down Partner Categories, a product that lets third-party data providers offer their targeting directly on Facebook.
“Overall, we believe these changes will better protect people’s information while still enabling developers to create useful experiences. We know we have more work to do — and we’ll keep you updated as we make more changes,” Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer, wrote in a blog post.
Mark Zuckerberg, who is set to testify in front of US Congress next week, also answered questions during a conference call with reporters this morning. Reuters reports the CEO took the blame for the data leak and believes he is the best person to lead the company.
Facebook shares have dropped more than 16 per cent since the scandal broke last month.