February 2004: Facebook launches
The first version of Facebook went live on February 4th. It was initially intended only for students at Harvard University, where Mark Zuckerberg studied. The original development team was Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes.
2006: Facebook goes global
Since 2006, any internet user who is (or says they are) 13 or over, has been eligible to join Facebook. The platform boasts – at time of writing – some 2.2 billion active users. The site’s revenue is driven by advertising which can be targeted to align with users’ interests and preferences.
April 2010: Introduction of Open Graph
Open Graph enables external developers to request increased amounts of personal data from Facebook users and, crucially, by extension to harvest data from their friends too.
February 2012: Facebook goes public
Facebook held its initial public offering (IPO) in February 2012, and began selling stock to the public three months later, reaching a record-breaking peak market capitalization of $104 billion.
Cambridge academic Aleksandr Kogan, from Global Science Research, launched a Facebook app that took the form of a personality quiz. Around 300,000 users completed the test, providing Kogan with access not only to their personal data but that of perhaps millions of their friends.
2014: Facebook changes the rules
In 2014, Facebook closed the loophole that Kogan had exploited and created new limits in the ways developers could access users’ personal data. Nevertheless Kogan retained the data he had collected, which found its way into the hands of GSR’s sister company Cambridge Analytica.
2015: Cambridge Analytica and Ted Cruz
Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz began using, according to a report in the Guardian, research company Cambridge Analytica to determine the voting intentions of million of Facebook users. In response to the story, Facebook requested that all of Kogan’s original data was deleted.
2016: Facebook and Trump
The Trump campaign team began to sink increasing sums of money into Facebook advertising. One notable example was the "Defeat Crooked Hilary" video campaign.
March 17 2018: The story breaks
While the Cambridge Analytica story wasn’t altogether secret before, it became an international talking point after a joint investigatative report by the Guardian and the New York Times. The articles revealed that the personal data of up to 87 million Facebook users was in the hands of Cambridge Analytica and being used to target pro-Trump advertising.
March 20 2018: Federal Trade Commission inquiry
The FTC began an investigation to determine whether Facebook had breached data privacy rules. At the same time, Zuckerberg was invited to testify before Congress.
March 21 2018: Zuckerberg issues first public comment
The Facebook founder issued a long public post on his website, which began “I want to share an update on the Cambridge Analytica situation -- including the steps we've already taken and our next steps to address this important issue.”
After outlining new, simplified privacy tools he concludes “While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn't change what happened in the past.”
He later spoke to the New York Times, saying that Facebook would "dramatically reduce the amount of data that developers have access to" and "do a full forensic audit" of all apps that "have any suspicious activity".
March 25 2018: The newspaper ads
Facebook paid for a number of full-page adverts in several leading English-language newspapers apologising for the data breach issues. Signed by Zuckerberg, they read “I'm sorry we didn't do more at the time. We're now taking steps to ensure this doesn't happen again.”
Now – The testimony
Mark Zuckerberg is currently testifying to a senate committee.The hearing is dismissed by many commentators as a sham with Zuckerberg’s responses to questions brief and unrevealing.
Zuckerberg maintains that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica misused or improperly obtained facebook data.
In his second day opening statement, Democratic senator Frank Pallone warned: “For all the good it brings, Facebook can be a weapon for groups like Russia and Cambridge Analytica.”