3.6m Asian Facebook users may have had harvested data passed on to Cambridge Analytica

Facebook has this morning revealed that more than 3.6 million users its service in Asia may have had their information improperly shared with controversial digital consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

The company said that it estimates 1.75m Facebook users in the Philippines could have seen some of their data harvested and passed on to Cambridge Analytica, making the country the second most hit behind the United States.

Indonesia was the third-most affected country globally with 1.1m people potentially affected. Smaller pockets were also possibly hit in India – 562,000 people – and Vietnam – 427,000, while Australia was the tenth most affected market globally with numbers reaching just over 300,000.

Facebook went on the front foot with founder Mark Zuckerberg fronting an hour-long press conference this morning in which he took responsibility for looser security settings in the past and promised to do better in the future.

The company simultaneously released its estimate of the worst case scenario for the number of users who may have had some of their data lifted from the service.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in the UK a fortnight ago with revelations that Cambridge Analytica had obtained data from a researcher who had created a personality test app. When users agreed to share their information with the app, it also allowed the researcher to access information about friends they were connected to.

Today’s numbers are based on the maximum number of people who might have installed the app, along with those who may have had their information shared with the app by their friends.

Since the announcement, Cambridge Analytica has tweeted to say that it licensed data for 30m individuals, not the 87m warned of by Facebook.


Cambridge Analytica – which specialises on running political campaigns – also insists that it deleted the data once it was warned by Facebook that it had been improperly obtained.

Facebook also today revealed a series of changes to its handling of user data on the platform.

The changes include tightening up the data that apps based on the company’s events service can get their hands on. Apps based on events will no longer be able to access guest lists or posts on the event wall.

Access for apps to brand pages and private groups is also being locked down.

And in a major change for apps that use Facebook Login, from today, apps will be tightly limited on what information they can request. The update said: “We will also no longer allow apps to ask for access to personal information such as religious or political views, relationship status and details, custom friends lists, education and work history, fitness activity, book reading activity, music listening activity, news reading, video watch activity, and games activity. In the next week, we will remove a developer’s ability to request data people shared with them if it appears they have not used the app in the last three months.”

Another change likely to impact those working in social media marketing will be changes to how user information on Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook, can be accessed by apps.

During Zuckerberg’s call, he repeatedly took responsibility for the issues but emphasised that many of the “bad actions” took place in the past would not be possible today.

He said: “At the end of the day it’s my responsibility – I started the place and I run it.

“We should have been doing more all along. Our view was… that our job was to give people the tools and it was their responsibility in how to use them. We now need to take a broader view. Clearly we should have done more and we will going forward.”

He added: “Life is about learning from the mistakes and figuring out what we need to do to move forward.”

Zuckerberg also argued that the company has never been in the business of selling data about its users, as its business model requires helping advertisers accurately target its users on the platform. He said: “We have to be able to kick this notion that we sell data to advertisers. We don’t. It wouldn’t make sense of us to do that.”

He added that Facebook users prefer the platform to have enough information about them to show them relevant advertising.

He said:”People tell us if they are going to see ads, they want the ads to be good. People tell us they want the ads to be relevant to what they care about.”

Asked whether the furore had affected user behaviour or let to any reduction of support from advertisers, he said: “I don’t think there has been any meaningful impact.”


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