Starting Monday, the users who might have had their data shared with Cambridge Analytica began getting a detailed message on their News Feeds. Facebook said most of the affected users (more than 70 million) are in the U.S., though there are over a million each in the Philippines, Indonesia and the U.K.

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How will I know if my information was taken?

Facebook will provide links to users so they can find out what they need to do if their information has been taken by Cambridge Analytica.

"In the next month, we will show everyone a tool at the top of your News Feed with the apps you've used and an easy way to revoke those apps' permissions to your data. We already have a tool to do this in your privacy settings, and now we will put this tool at the top of your News Feed to make sure everyone sees it," said Mark Zuckerberg on his Facebook page.

In addition, all 2.2 billion Facebook users will receive a notice section titled “Protecting Your Information” with a link to see what apps they're using and what information the users have shared with those apps. If they want, users can shut off apps individually or turn off third-party access to their apps completely.

What does it mean?

After its worst privacy crisis in history — allegations that this Trump-affiliated data mining firm may have used ill-gotten user data to try to influence elections — Facebook is in full damage-control mode. CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that he made a “huge mistake” in failing to take a broad enough view of what Facebook’s responsibility is in the world. He’s set to testify before Congress next week.

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie previously estimated that more than 50 million people were compromised by a personality quiz that collected data from users and their friends. In an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Wylie said the true number could be even larger than 87 million.

Photo courtesy: Facebook
Photo courtesy: Facebook

That Facebook app, called “This is Your Digital Life,” was a personality quiz created in 2014 by an academic researcher named Aleksander Kogan, who paid about 270,000 people to take it. The app vacuumed up not just the data of the people who took it, but also — thanks to Facebook’s loose restrictions — data from their friends, too, including details that they hadn’t intended to share publicly.

Facebook later limited the data apps can access, but it was too late in this case.

Zuckerberg said Facebook came up with the 87 million figure by calculating the maximum number of friends that users could have had while Kogan’s app was collecting data. The company doesn’t have logs going back that far, he said, so it can’t know exactly how many people may have been affected.

What should you do?

Once you add an app to your Facebook profile or use your Facebook account to log into another site, it’s easy to forget the exposure you incurred and with whom you did business. If you chose to link an outside app to your Facebook account, make sure you research the company is and how they might use your data. Both are important to know

You can check which apps you're signed up for in a desktop browser or Facebook’s mobile apps. You can learn how to protect your personal information on Facebook here.

Facebook allows apps to access much of users' profile information but has tightened up some controls. For instance, it prevents apps from seeing the personal data of people in your friends' list. That was the giant loophole the British researcher legitimately used to access data but then unjustly sold to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook knew this misuse happened about three years ago.

Access to your personal information also depends on what the app or site asked and what you allowed. An app can ask for access to anything in your profile — and can declare some of that information “required” — and you have to decide if you trust it with that data and if you trust the developer to delete your information should you later remove the app.

Apps used to be a big deal on Facebook, leading to the huge popularity of Farmville and Words with Friends, meaning that even if you haven't downloaded a Facebook app, you may already have given an app developer leeway to access your details.

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