If you're concerned that you may be one of the estimated 87 million people whose Facebook data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has just published a link you can use to check.
Release of that link came just before CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent four hours testifying during a Senate hearing today that involved more than 40 senators (nearly one-half of the entire Senate) who wanted to know what the company is doing to protect users' data and prevent such abuses from occurring again.
Here's what you do to check:
Click on this link and you'll be taken to a page where you'll see a box labeled "Was My Information Shared?" It will tell you if you or your friends logged into the app, "This is Your Digital Life," which shared the data with Cambridge Analytica.
I did that and much to my relief I received a message that said, "Based on our available records, neither you nor your friends logged into "This Is Your Digital Life." As a result, it doesn't appear your Facebook information was shared with Cambridge Analytica by 'This Is Your Digital Life.'"
The thought that my personal information could have ended up in the hands of the Trump campaign makes me furious. I've been a Facebook user for years and enjoy the service. It's allowed me to connect with far-flung family members as well as classmates from high school in France more than 50 years ago. I use it to share my blogs far beyond my subscriber list, and, of course, it's fun to see peoples' comments about events of the day.
Senators today had a great opportunity to bring some clarity to the situation, including whether some sort of legislation is needed to protect consumers. But it seemed to me that Zuckerberg was the clear winner, even saying he would work with lawmakers to suggest possible legislation. He dealt with some genius senators, like Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who asked the penetrating question: "How can Facebook make money if it's free?" Zuckerberg looked at him with a slight smile and said, "Senator, we sell ads."
Zuckerberg, while admitting mistakes and taking responsibility for his company's actions, pretty much had his way, answering questions directly and forthrightly. One senator wanted to know why the user agreement was not all inclusive. He simply told him that nobody would read it if it was a long legal document.
In the end, the company's stock rebounded more than 4 percent after taking some pretty tough hits over the past few days, which should have made stockholders happy, including those lawmakers who have holdings.
Meanwhile, it's up to us, individually, to guard our information. If you don't want it shared, opt out where you have an opportunity. And never, ever fill out one of those surveys that promise to tell you what you'd look like as a member of the opposite sex or how you'll look 50 years from now. Those kind of surveys usually require you to approve the sharing of your data, providing the fuel for abuse such as occurred with Cambridge Analytica.
I don't know about you, but the idea of my personal information being used in such a way makes me sick.