Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Nearly 60,000 Facebook users in SA may be victims of the social network’s data breach.

A Facebook spokesman said 33 users in SA had installed an app used to share data with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, the firm often credited with US President Donald Trump’s election victory.

In SA 59,777 Facebook users were "potentially impacted" through their friendships with people who had installed the personality quiz app, the spokesman said.

Facebook said the personal information of 87-million of its 2.2-billion users, most of them in the US, may have been wrongfully shared with Cambridge Analytica.

The app, created by a Cambridge University researcher in 2013, was installed by about 300,000 people who shared their data as well as some of their friends’ data.

"I am quite confident that, given our analysis, it is not more than 87-million people. It very well could be less, but we wanted to put out the maximum," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call last week.

"It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough. We didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools to do harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, hate speech, in addition to developers and data privacy.

"We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is, and that was a huge mistake. It was my mistake," he said.

World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said that Cambridge Analytics had clearly violated ethical standards and surrendered its reputation to entities focused on the disruption of democracy.

"Its behaviour was nothing short of criminal. However, Facebook played an enabling role and a mere apology is not enough to exonerate it," he said.

Zuckerberg is expected to appear before the US Senate and Congress on Wednesday and Thursday.

He is likely to face tough questions about Facebook’s response to the Cambridge Analytica breach, which his company knew about in 2015, but failed to tell affected users. This is required by law in many US states, and several state politicians have already indicated that they intend pursuing legal action against the world’s largest social network.

Local money manager Vestact said that Facebook’s earnings "are not going to be affected by this at all" since users were unlikely to ditch the platform and advertisers had little choice but to continue advertising on Facebook.

With Toby Shapshak

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za