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Following The Cambridge Analytica-Facebook Data Scandal, Other Tech Firms To Face Probe On Data Sharing Too


In the wake of the scandal involving the most extensive social network and the political consulting firm, it is likely that other software developers and internet companies will be investigated over how they share users’ data.

The latest decision to probe other tech giants will likely affect Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Twitter, Uber Technologies, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and a host of many others that make users’ data available to third-party developers, a similar case to what drove Facebook into the mess.

Facebook allows numerous software developers to operate on its network, thereby granting them the access to harvest users’ data. The main issue is how the collated data got into the hands of Cambridge Analytica. Given this, lawmakers in the US and the European Union have requested for an investigation into how the British firm was given the access to the data of 50 million users. 

Notably, other internet companies are guilty of a similar offence because as long as user’s information is collated via signups or registrations, the software developers have access to them. With the interconnections between Facebook and other networks like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google, users are quickly sharing the posts, articles, and pictures using their Google account. This has been the norm without an uproar until the Facebook scandal. So far, there have been issues of threats of sanctions on any company who fails to take responsibility for what the third-party software developers do with the data they have.

Jason Costa, who helped run APIs at Pinterest Inc., Twitter and Google say that the usual line of pushing off responsibilities to third-party software developers will no longer be defensible. He said: “All companies are going to need to do a lot more than just laisses faire policy to manage third-party data access moving forward. The days of the ‘we’re just a platform and can’t be held responsible for how users use it line that many companies use’ is no longer going to be tenable.”

The use of Application Programming Interface (API) has posed a long-standing privacy challenge since they emerged in 2005. While the adoptions of APIs make it very easy to move data online and eases the stress of tech companies, there exists an economic undertone behind these interfaces. They create tools that benefit big companies by giving them control over a software designed by them but also benefit by obtaining instant access to a large chunk of users’ data (which could be used for financial purposes). This is the between Dr. Kogan and Cambridge Analytica.

The big platforms insist that they have protection and scanning tools to detect abuse by third-party developers but software experts say the auditing is not stringent enough. Blank, who has worked with APIs noted: “it’s hard to police if the alarms aren’t being sounded.” 

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