Given the recent news involving Facebook and how Cambridge Analytica (CA) used microtargeting to sway voters opinions in the United States of America, the social media company has stated that 59,777 Facebook users in South Africa were affected by the saga. This comes after 33 Facebook users in South Africa installed the related app which Cambridge Analytica eventually used to harvest users' personal data.

In 2015, approximately 50 million Facebook user profiles were harvested by Aleksandr Koganโ€™s app, โ€œthisisyourdigitallifeโ€, through his company Global Science Research (GSR) in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica.

"As Mark [Zuckerberg] outlined in his post we are taking numerous measures. One of those being that everyone globally on their Facebook page will see an alert leading them to the apps setting where they can review the apps theyโ€™ve allowed to access to their data. Additionally, those potentially impacted by CA will also see the alert with additional language which will then take them to see what data might have been shared," said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement to iAfrikan.

The 59,777 Facebook users potentially impacted in South Africa despite only 33 Facebook users installing the app, are as a result of them being friends of those who would have installed the app elsewhere in the world. Up until 2014 (Graph API v1.0), to a lesser degree until 2015 (Graph API v2.0) and to an even lesser degree since 2015 (API v2.3, app review is required), the profile information of a Facebook user could also be acquired when a friend of a user installed an app effectuating privacy interdependence on Facebook. A user who shared personal information with their friends on Facebook had no idea whether a friend had installed an app that also accessed the shared content.

"We wanted to share on background the number of South African Facebook users whose personal data might have been affected," said the Facebook spokesperson.

Although this does not currently mean much for South Africans, it raises concerns as the country is set to have general elections in 2019. Also, having just come out of a Bell Pottinger South African politics social media campaign that was exposed recently, it raises legitimate concerns over whether CA will use Facebook in South Africa the same way it did for the USA elections.

Cover image credit: Facebook Africa Head Office in Johannesburg, South Africa. |

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