Facebook wanted desperately to be a platform company. Thus years ago, it wrote an API that was very generous in how much data it gave out, in order to attract developers. Eventually it became clear to the company that it should instead be an advertising company, so it updated its API to be more protective of its data instead. A platform company wants to be generous with its data; an advertising company wants to be stingy with its data. During those intermediary years, companies like Cambridge Analytica took full advantage of the richness of Facebook’s platform-centric APIs.
When foreshortened, that backstory has given the appearance that Facebook, an ad company, is sloppy with its data. It’s allowed some people, including Tim Cook, to say that Facebook has been knowingly selling its users’ data abroad. That’s factually incorrect.
The whole reason this is in the limelight right now is because some people are in search for a scapegoat that neatly explains how Donald Trump became president, and Facebook is an easy target. It’s sheer hypocrisy however, because operatives from the Obama campaign made exactly the same use of this Facebook data, whilst the gatekeepers of media heralded it as a forward thinking use of social media. It’s a double standard.
That’s a high level tl;dr of this explosive episode of Exponent. It provides clarity to an issue that’s caused my eyes to glaze heretofore. I highly recommend listening to this in its entirety.