Facebook said on Wednesday that an estimated 622,161 Canadians may have had their data shared with the British data analysis company Cambridge Analytica.
Company spokesperson Meg Sinclair told CBC News the number is a fraction — 0.7 per cent — of the 87 million people it now believes were affected globally. The majority of those users, nearly 82 per cent, were in the U.S. The disclosure comes in the wake of one of the biggest data privacy scandals in the company’s history.
It was revealed last month that an academic researcher named Aleksandr Kogan had collected information from more than 50 million Facebook users in 2014 using a personality quiz app, and then shared that information with Cambridge Analytica.
The user profile data, which included biographical information, as well as the pages each user had liked, was used to build psychological profiles that could help Cambridge Analytica’s clients — mostly political campaigns, including Donald Trump’s presidential bid — better target their ads.
It may come as a surprise that a personality quiz created by a British researcher — to gather data for use by U.S. political campaigns — could come to ensnare so many Canadians. But the incident further underscores how the permissive nature of Facebook’s design allowed Kogan to cast a net as wide as he did, collecting data on millions from just 270,000 people who took the quiz.
Facebook announced its latest findings alongside new details on its plans to restrict how third party app developers can access user data, which were first announced last week.
Starting next week, “we will also tell people if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica,” chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer wrote in a blog post announcing Facebook’s latest efforts.