NEW YORK -- Facebook's leadership needsto lawmakers in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Jennifer Grygiel, a social media expert and assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University, told CBSN on Sunday. Cambridge Analytica was hired by the Trump campaign in 2016 and has come under fire after reportedly harvesting more than 50 million Facebook profiles without users' permission via a third-party app.
"I hope that people in Congress are taking a look at this very carefully and that they step up and start to hold these companies accountable," she added. "I think we need to hear from Mark Zuckerberg and the heads of the platform. I think they need to testify and disclose exactly what's happening with the data."
"We need them to testify and tell us exactly what's going on here," she said. Sens. Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar have already called for senior figures from Facebook to appear personally in front of the Senate.
In a statement released late on Friday, Facebook acknowledged that it learned it had been "lied to" about Cambridge Analytica and an affiliate's activities in 2015,before suspending the firm from its platform, but did not alert users at the time. Facebook insisted there was no breach of their system.
No framework exists to protect social media users
"People are able to exploit systems that aren't regulated. If anything, this underscores that maybe this wasn't a traditional breach, per se, but essentially there was nothing protecting users of Facebook of having their data used in ways that they didn't agree to," Grygiel said. "This highlights that there isn't a regulatory infrastructure in the United States and possibly the world to make sure that users are protected."
Grygiel said Facebook functions "in similar ways" to Cambridge Analytica but has access to vastly more data than the likes of Cambridge Analytica. "We saw from reports from around the last election that they were embedding staff from Facebook into the campaigns."
"In a lot of ways Facebook is functioning as a way to help campaigns target audiences -- and they have the most data, so I would say Facebook itself is another company working in similar ways," she added.
Grygiel said there are "great concerns" about the upcoming midterm elections that "need to be addressed immediately."
Wired editor-in-chief and CBS News contributor Nick Thompson told CBSN on Saturday that it's "even more damning" Cambridge Analytica obtained the data from Facebook "without it being a breach."
"It didn't work because somebody hacked in and broke stuff," Thompson added. "It worked because Facebook has built the craziest most invasive advertising model in the history of the world and someone took advantage of it."
Since it was a violation of Facebook's terms of services, Thompson said he's not sure what government agency would be tasked with regulating the platform to prevent a recurrence in the political sphere.
"I'm not sure, though, that you can actually regulate your way out of this problem because on the flip side of this, the reason political advertising on Facebook is so effective is because Facebook is a great tool for advertising," he said. "You can't just shut down all advertising on Facebook or make it harder for people to micro-target on Facebook because in general that's just the way business works and they invented this great tool."
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