Since its incorporation just over five years ago, Facebook has undergone a remarkable transformation. When it started, it was a private space for communication focused on college and university groups. Soon, it transformed into a platform where information is public by default. Today, it has reached a stage where you have no choice but to make certain information public. This public information may be shared by Facebook with its partner websites and used to target ads.
Infographic on the evolution of privacy on Facebook (2005-2010): http://mattmckeon.com/facebook-privacy/
Over 20,000 new accounts are registered each day and 90% of college students have an active Facebook account, 90.8% of users have a profile picture, 87.8% choose to show their birthday, 39.9% display a phone number, and 50.8% list their current address on their profile.
Facebook has been collecting and analyzing site content without user consent or knowledge, frequently, over a vast number of ways. Facebook put in an advertising system called Beacon. It took the activity users conducted on other websites and sent that information back to Facebook . The idea was that all of a user’s friends would be able to see their actions on their page with a link so that the friends could follow suit, which proves useful for advertising companies. This was very considered to be controversial since it monitored all user activity even when the user was singed out of Facebook.
The Cambridge Analytica Scandal
Cambridge Analytica, is a British data mining and data brokerage company that uses data analysis for the electoral process, also better known as a political data analytics firm. In May 2018, Facebook temporarily suspended Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) in addition to its political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, which Donald Trump was using as a data operations team for the 2016 presidential election campaign, for the misuse of personal information found on the site. More specifically, the company reportedly violated Facebook's policies surrounding data collection and retention and is credited with aiding Trump to better target voters on Facebook and giving him an unfair advantage in reaching voters than Hilary Clinton. Shortly after being suspended temporarily, Cambridge Analytica released a statement saying "when it subsequently became clear that the data had not been obtained by GSR [Global Science Research] in line with Facebook's terms of service, Cambridge Analytica deleted all data received from GSR."
Sources say that it's difficult to tell exactly what information Cambridge Analytica obtained from as many as 50 million Facebook. However, studying Facebook's old API ("Application Programming Interface"; what's an API?) provides insight to what information may have been scraped before Facebook reworked its data scraping policies in 2014, two years before the election. Additionally, sources say that it is unclear to what extent Cambridge Analytica helped in the 2016 election, but it is known that Trump's digital campaigning was "shockingly effective."
As a result of these findings, lawmakers began to demand that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, testify before Congress due to the leak/invasion of privacy of just over 50 million Facebook users in addition to the interference in the 2016 presidential election and having possible Russian connections. In addition legal issues, the public began to lash out at Facebook as users began to boycott the site entirely including the singer, Cher; the hashtag #DeleteFacebook began trending on Twitter along with #WheresZuck after Zuckerberg remained silent for several days after the problems came to light.
As requested, Zuckerberg appeared before Congress where he testified to House and Senate committees where, on the first day, he faced questions about how user's information was improperly utilized. Zuckerberg reported that Facebook is now investigating "tens of thousands of apps" to find what information has been gathered.
A class action lawsuit was lodged against the company on behalf of all Facebook users, claiming that the difficulty in opting-out of the system and the site was not telling them the entire truth. In 2009, Facebook settled that suit out of court for $9.5 million and also promised to shut down the Beacon system completely. Facebook received complaints again in December 2009 for changing its default setting being to share everything. In April 2010, the social networking company made another set of changes, one of which was the “instant personalization” program, where it shares users’ names and other data with Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft Docs. Users can opt out, but if they don't do so their information is shared by default.
In October 2010, Facebook was sued by users for applications or games that one can join as a member on Facebook and play with other members of the social networking website. Popular applications made for the social network, such as FarmVille, Zynga Poker and The Pioneer Trail (formerly known as "FrontierVille"), have been sending user's personal information to dozens of advertising and Internet monitoring companies. Makers of Facebook applications were sending user ID numbers to outside firms. These numbers then could be used to look up people’s names and in some cases other information.
EPIC & FTC Complaints
The Electronic Privacy Information Center and 14 other consumer protection groups lodged a formal complaint against Facebook with the Federal Trade Commission. The groups take issue with Facebook's privacy policies and accuse the site of unfair and deceptive trade practices that infringe on a user's expectation of privacy while on the site.  The main concerns are Facebook's Instant Personalization feature; the inability of Facebook users to make the 'Likes and Interests' section of their profile private; and the fact that Facebook discloses user profile information in certain ways even if a user has elected to keep that information private. They essentially called for Facebook to reconstruct their privacy policies to grant user's more control over their information on the site.