On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg underwent round one of grilling in front of the US Senate following allegations that his multi-billion dollar tech company has been mishandling people’s personal data.
Just before Zuckerberg sat down at Capitol Hill, Facebook announced its new Data Abuse Bounty program to reward people who report any misuse of data by app developers.
Building on their existing bug bounty programs, the new system will effectively pay people who report and provide evidence that a Facebook platform app is improperly using people’s data by stealing it or using it for scams and political influence. They will also inform people who have been affected by the scams. The rewards will start at around $500, according to AFP, and will increase depending on how serious or widespread the misuse is.
“While there is no maximum, high impact bug reports have garnered as much as $40,000 for people who bring them to our attention,” Collin Greene, Head of Product Security at Facebook, said in an announcement.
Facebook's data policies have been thrust into the limelight following reports that UK data firm Cambridge Analytica, which has ties to President Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, improperly obtained data from Facebook. Much of this data was collected by an innocent-looking quiz called "This Is Your Digital Life", then shared with Cambridge Analytica, and then used to target political adverts to unknowing users.
Carole Cadwalladr, one of the lead journalists behind the recent Cambridge Analytica revelations, was quick to make a quip about Facebook's new programme:
Facebook is desperately trying to prove it is taking steps to improve transparency and its handling of personal data. One of the other moves it has made has involved revealing to its 2.2 billion active users whether or not their information was mishandled. It’s estimated 87 million people, 71 million of whom are in the US, were affected by the data breach. You can click here to see if you are one of the affected users.
While this week's hearings in Congress have helped to clear up a few questions, with lots of admissions that “we made mistakes,” it’s now unclear what will come next for the social media giant. The internet was once said to be like a free but lawless Wild West. Well, it looks like old Sheriff Zuckerberg has now been tasked with cleaning up his town of Facebook. Just like the Old Frontier, there are even bounties for the capture of outlaws.