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More than 65,000 Facebook users in Singapore may have had their information improperly shared

Social media giant, Facebook, has stated that more than 65,000 Facebook users in Singapore may have had their information improperly shared with political consultancy and data mining firm Cambridge Analytica.

The report on the matter showed that they were among the up to 87 million accounts worldwide whose data may have been affected.

The social media giant told TODAY that it would notify the 65,009 people in the country who may have been part of the data breach, however, no specific dates were given.

It also told Channel News Asia that 65,009 people in Singapore may have had their information improperly shared, which is less than 1 per cent of the total number of users affected around the world.

The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) in Singapore said that it is in close contact with Facebook and is looking into the matter. Its spokesperson said, “PDPC is concerned that individuals in Singapore are affected. Facebook users are encouraged to review their privacy settings in order to control how their information is used or shared.”

However, the commission did not say what penalties Facebook could face if found to have breached regulations here.

Facebook stated that the majority of the users affected were in the United States. 97.2 per cent of users who installed a personality quiz app created by an academic who was hired by Cambridge Analytica were in the US specifically.

Cambridge Analytica (CA) is a British political consulting firm which combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process. It was started in 2013. The company is partly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, an American hedge-fund manager who supports many politically conservative causes.

It is the firm which worked with United States President Donald Trump’s election team in 2016, acquiring the data of US citizens through a mobile application and used it to develop a software programme to predict and influence voters.

The application was built by Cambridge University academic Aleksandr Kogan through his company, in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook discovered the data had been harvested in late 2015, however, it failed to alert users at the time.

The announcement on the matter was made on Wednesday (US time), which said that it would restrict the information that apps could use when connected by users to Facebook. The announcement also mentioned the update on the number of Singapore users affected, as well as more than 1 million users in the Philippines and Indonesia who may have had their information improperly shared.

The company’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg spoke to journalists in the US on the same day, saying that he accepted responsibility for the breach of trust.

“I think life is about learning from the mistakes and figuring out how to move forward. When you’re building something like Facebook which is unprecedented in the world, there are things that you’re going to mess up. What I think people should hold us accountable for is if we are learning from our mistakes,” he noted.

Mike Schroepfer, Facebook chief technology officer, said, “We expect to make more changes over the coming months — and will keep you updated on our progress.”

Facebook also said that a feature allowing people to enter someone else’s phone number or email address into a Facebook search to find them on the platform has been disabled, after being abused by unspecified “malicious actors” who harvested the public profiles of most of Facebook’s two billion users.

It also said that new privacy tool for users would be put in place by Monday, allowing users to remove apps that they no longer want.

Developers’ ability to request data people shared with them will also be removed if the users have not used the app for three months and applications will also no longer be allowed to ask for access to various personal information, such as relationship status and details, religious or political views, news reading, education and work history, and more.