Facebook Users React To Privacy Breaches

Apr 13, 2018
Originally published on April 13, 2018 4:44 am
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Facebook has started letting around 87 million of its users know that their data may have been scooped up by the political data firm Cambridge Analytica. NPR's Laura Sydell talked to some Facebook users who got the notification.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: When Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, he said there'd been no mass exodus from the site since the revelations about improper use of personal data. Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, had this to say.

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RON JOHNSON: So it's kind of safe to say that Facebook users don't seem to be overly concerned about all these revelations, although obviously Congress apparently is.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Well, Senator, I think people are concerned about it. And I think these are incredibly important issues that people want us to address.

SYDELL: In fact, a Gallup poll from last week shows that 55 percent of Americans are concerned about their personal data being sold and used by other companies. NPR reached out, on social media of course, to see how the people who got an alert this week felt. We got over 70 responses.

KAREN CASEY: It made me feel violated and angry.

SYDELL: Karen Casey, a 60-year-old who lives in Louisiana, got a Facebook alert this week that her information had been shared with Cambridge Analytica. She was bothered that they might have tried to manipulate her.

CASEY: Using this data to study all these people psychologically and then to use that information to target people with a certain message - there's just something dark about that to me.

SYDELL: Casey's been thinking about deleting her Facebook account, but it's the place where she connects with all her old high school pals.

CASEY: What could I do differently? I'll get everybody's email and make sure I have everybody's phone number and then shut it down.

SYDELL: That's a lot of work, and she hasn't done it yet. She's not the only one who's upset and yet finds it hard to part with Facebook. Carolyn Williamson works in government in Dallas, Texas, and she's involved in politics. For her, Facebook is an important communication platform that makes her hesitate to delete it.

CAROLYN WILLIAMSON: I'm still not going to be getting the news. I'm still not going to be seeing what's going on. And if I do have a message that I want to get out, how do I get it out?

SYDELL: This feeling of resignation was common to the more than 70 people who responded to NPR's call out.

NICHOLAS MCDOWELL: I would love to be able to leave Facebook.

SYDELL: Nicholas McDowell, a 46-year-old who lives in Silicon Valley, has tried to get off Facebook. He says every time he hears about a competitor, he tries it.

MCDOWELL: But unless I can convince my current set of friends, my friends from high school, my friends from college, my parents, my siblings to kind of move over there en masse, it doesn't seem like going over there will be a similar experience.

SYDELL: McDowell hopes that Congress will come up with a way to regulate consumer privacy online. So did others who spoke to NPR, though they were all skeptical that this Congress would manage to get it done. Laura Sydell, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.