The Facebook interface.

On March 19, we reported about the new “Protect My Data” button Facebook added to its social media platform that does absolutely nothing, but feels good to click. We now have an upsetting update to that story: Every user who clicked on the completely ineffectual “Protect My Data” button has had their data stolen by Cambridge Analytica.


This is just not a good week for Facebook.

While the button designed by Facebook to give a totally false sense of security is only a few simple lines of JavaScript, Cambridge Analytica was able to access users’ cookies to see who clicked the button, and then harvested all that data from those profiles. What makes this even worse is that due to Facebook’s tepid security settings, which were designed with increasing revenue from corporate partners in mind, Cambridge Analytica was also able to access and store the data of all the friends of anyone who clicked the button, which could total in the hundreds of millions.

Wow. The “Protect My Data” button started out as a completely useless, bold-faced lie, but it’s turned into something far more troubling. If you have a Facebook account, be very careful!

Below is the original story we ran on March 19:

With the recent bombshell that the personal information of more than 50 million Facebook profiles was obtained by a political data firm, users are feeling more nervous than ever about their cyber security. Thankfully, Facebook is not taking this troubling development lightly and has leaped to action: The social media company is adding a “Protect My Data” button to users’ profiles that does nothing but feels good to press.

Right on! This is a big step in the right direction.

Starting today, Facebook users can press the “Protect My Data” button to hear an incredibly satisfying ding and see an animation of a lock securing on their screen that has absolutely zero effect on anything, but really feels like you’re stopping third-party data harvesters dead in their tracks. While no message is actually sent to Facebook requesting increased security measures on users’ account, they can click the comforting “Protect My Data” button hundreds or thousands of times if needed, until they feel safe enough to continue using Facebook with the exact same porous security settings they’ve always had.

“Facebook wants all 1.9 billion of our users to feel confident that their personal information is being safeguarded, so hopefully this new ‘Protect My Data’ button, which is essentially a glorified GIF, will give people an unfounded sense of protection from hackers,” explained Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post this morning. “And for users who want to feel absolutely certain that their data is safe even though it still won’t be, after 10 straight clicks, a message will pop up with a very deep voice announcing, ‘LOCKDOWN. ULTRA SECURE.’”

Amazing. While cyber security continues to be a major area of concern for Facebook users, it looks like the site is stepping up in a major way to make sure users feel good about using the site. Take note, other websites that store user data, because this is how you make users feel secure!


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