Starting on Monday afternoon, hundreds of thousands of Canadian Facebook users should be receiving a message that looks something like this:
The notice is being sent to approximately 620,000 users in Canada who either downloaded and logged into an application called “This is Your Digital Life” using their Facebook profile, or who have a friend who did so.
The app, created in 2014 by an academic at Cambridge University, was a personality quiz that was downloaded by roughly 270,000 people worldwide. In downloading it, those users also gave the app permission to access certain information in their Facebook profiles, such as their home town or city, their likes and information about their friends.
WATCH: Wylie says Facebook data link may have affected more than 87 million users
Because Facebook’s privacy controls were (by the company’s own admission) too loose, the app captured not only this data, but also similar data from the users’ friends.
That huge hoard of information was eventually sold to a company called Cambridge Analytica, in violation of Facebook’s policies. The company did not disclose the breach.
How will I know if I’ve been affected?
If your data was caught up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a notification like the one pictured above should appear at the very top of your Facebook newsfeed, starting on Monday afternoon.
A button marked “see how you’re affected” will take users to a more detailed rundown of what happened during the breach and what information might have been exposed. Facebook says that affected users will also be given additional information on how to prevent other apps and websites from accessing their data.
If you were not affected directly by the breach, you’ll still see a similar notification that is more general in nature and looks something like this:
What do I do next?
Unfortunately, if your data was captured by the app and shared with Cambridge Analytica, the proverbial toothpaste can’t be put back in the tube. There’s little recourse now, years after the information was scooped up.
What you can do — whether you’ve been affected directly or not — is review the apps you’ve currently got downloaded via Facebook, read up on the website’s policies around information-sharing, and tighten your privacy controls.
Facebook is expected to unveil new privacy shortcuts and tools within the next few weeks to help users with this process.
You’ll be able to download more of your information than before, and a new tool called “Access Your Information” will allow people to delete anything from their timeline or profile that they no longer want on Facebook.
What happened to the Cambridge Analytica data?
According to whistleblower Christopher Wylie, Cambridge Analytica used the data mined from Facebook to match individual users to other existing records.
That cross-referencing process allowed the firm to build individual psychographic profiles, Wylie says. The result was a powerful software program that could predict and influence voters in both the U.K.’s Brexit campaign and the 2016 American presidential election.
WATCH: How Facebook data made psychological profiles
There is still little information available regarding how Canadians’ data may ultimately have been used.
In mid-March, the New York Times reported that at least some copies of the data were still being held on servers, in spite repeated assurances from Cambridge Analytica that the information had been destroyed.
Over half a million Canadian Facebook users are expected to learn today that their data was compromised. Are you one of them? Let us know.