How social media companies misuse your data

Vybit Community
4 min readJun 27, 2019


Facebook has 2.23 billion users worldwide. While they remain the most popular social media platform on earth, its competitors are no slouches. Twitter has 330 million users, LinkedIn has 500 million users, and Snapchat has a respectable 190 million users. When you are storing the personal data of such a large user-base, then you have the responsibility to not misuse it in any way, shape, or form. Unfortunately, as we have seen time and time again, that has not been the case. In this article, we are going to look at the instances of social media companies misusing their user’s data and how VID is going to prevent that from happening.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Image Credit: Donie O’Sullivan Twitter

The image that you see above is Facebook’s full-page ads on prominent papers like NYT, WSJ, etc. They did this as a direct response to the Cambridge Analytica debacle. This was the exact debacle which led to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appearing in front of the U.S. Congress giving his testimony. So, what exactly happened here? Let’s take a closer look.

Aleksandr Kogan, a data scientist at Cambridge University, developed an app called “This is Your Digital Life” and then provided it to Cambridge Analytica, who in turn used it to survey Facebook users for academic research purposes. However, Facebook’s design allowed the app to not only collect the personal information of the users but all their connections as well. Because of this, Cambridge Analytica was able to get their hands on the personal data of a staggering 87 million Facebook users, of which 70.6 million were from the United States.

According to Facebook, the information stolen included one’s “public profile, page likes, birthday, and the current city.” Some of the users even gave them permission to access their News Feed, timeline, and messages. The data they ultimately obtained was so detailed that they were able to:

  • Create psychographic profiles of the subjects of the data.
  • The profiles created were detailed enough to suggest what kind of advertisement would be most useful to persuade a particular person in a specific location for some political event.

Politicians paid Cambridge Analytica handsomely to use the information from the data breach to influence the following events:

  • 2015 and 2016 campaigns of United States politicians Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
  • 2016 Brexit vote.
  • 2018 Mexican general election, 2018, for Institutional Revolutionary Party.

LinkedIn violates user data

Over the years, LinkedIn has been called out for its ability to suggest uncanny suggestions to its users. According to a report by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), these suggestions were more than just mere coincidence. During the investigation, DPC found out that in a bid to get more people to sign up to the service, LinkedIn did the following:

  • They obtained emails for 18 million people who were not already members of the social network and then used these in a hashed form for targeted advertisements on the Facebook platform.
  • After that, the DPC decided to conduct an audit after they were concerned with the “wider systemic issues identified in the initial investigation.” During the audit, they found out that LinkedIn was also applying its social graph-building algorithms to suggest professional networks for users.
  • DPC wrote in their report, “As a result of the findings of our audit, LinkedIn Corp was instructed by LinkedIn Ireland, as data controller of EU user data, to cease pre-compute processing and to delete all personal data associated with such processing prior to 25 May 2018.”

Regarding the whole investigation, Denis Kelleher, Head of Privacy for LinkedIn, provided the following statement:

“We appreciate the DPC’s 2017 investigation of a complaint about an advertising campaign and fully cooperated. Unfortunately, the strong processes and procedures we have in place were not followed and for that we are sorry. We’ve taken appropriate action, and have improved the way we work to ensure that this will not happen again. During the audit, we also identified one further area where we could improve data privacy for non-members and we have voluntarily changed our practices as a result.”

How VID will not make the same mistakes

VID is a privacy-focussed AI video journal app that allows you to remember your life and monetize your memories. The AI will collect all these meta-data from all the popular apps. After that, it will auto-tag them, create a nice little video package, and then organize them in a calendar to give you your own personal journal.

Obviously, this raises the question — what is preventing VID from misusing your data?

VID’s architecture has incorporated zero-knowledge proofs (ZKP) within their ecosystem, which imparts privacy to its users. Using ZKPs, VID users can safely allow the app to access their data, knowing that VID itself will not be able to access it. This will prevent VID from harvesting your data, giving you full ownership over it in the process. Your data is yours and yours alone.



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