The Cambridge Analytica scandal caused shockwaves on both sides of the Atlantic in 2018. Documents leaked indicated the company, run by Stephen Bannon, a former aid of Donald Trump, had misused data obtained from Facebook to build voter profiles. It was the worst data breach in Facebook’s history, with 87 million profiles affected. There were also claims of a link to Russia, which caused further outrage.
Senator Richard Blumenthal described the revelations on Twitter as “Wanton theft and chilling privacy invasion require immediate Congressional hearings – and action”.
Some media outlets reported that Cambridge Analytica had played a key role in helping Donald Trump win and in the UK, helped the Brexit campaign achieve a majority.
The CA scandal rattled on for months and is still ongoing, with more documents released to an anonymous Twitter account on New Year’s Day; many of the documents were originally subpoenaed in the 2016 Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.
A Valuable Commodity
With data such a valuable commodity, it’s hardly surprising that companies will fight tooth and nail to obtain it.
Cambridge Analytica is one of the most high-profile data breaches, but it’s certainly not the only one.
The World’s Worst Data Breaches
- Three billion Yahoo accounts were breached in 2013, but it took the company three years to ‘fess up. A further data breach in 2014 affected 500 million Yahoo customers, with encrypted passwords and security questions stolen.
- Capital One customers had their data stolen last year. 106 million people who applied for credit between 2005 and 2019 were affected.
- 143 million Equifax personal profiles were exposed in 2017. Information leaked into the public domain included personal data, credit card numbers, and documents related to credit disputes.
- 500 million registered with the Marriot/Starwood hotel chain had passport numbers and travel data breached in 2018.
And the list goes on.
Nobody is Safe…
The key takeaway here is that nobody is safe. Unless you have been living in a remote mountain community, far away from modern technology, since birth, there is likely to be a ton of data out there about you and your loved ones.
Data is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it lets us see targeted adverts and buy things online quickly and easily.
But, it makes it very easy for criminals to extract money and attack us for their own nefarious purposes.
Protect Your Data
Data brokers make a fortune trading in our personal data, they sell for a premium on the dark web.
Much of this data is harvested from public access databases, which we have no control over, but this doesn’t mean you should give up and let brokers off the hook.
Check the main people finder sites to see what’s out there in the public domain. You can search by name, email address, physical address, telephone number, etc.
Type in your email address on sites to see if it’s ever been compromised in a data breach. Chances are it has.
If you do find your data on a data broker’s website, ask them to remove it. Many of the more reputable sites have a simple process for data removal.
You can also pay a service to monitor your details and remove them from a list of sites, but this soon gets expensive.
The best approach is to treat your personal information with the respect it deserves and be careful not to post it online.