Examples of Abuse

Almost everyday a company or government abuses your data. Whether these abuses are intentional or the result of error, we must learn from these abuses so that we can better build tomorrow's policies and technologies. This resource is an opportunity to learn that this has all happened before, as well as a tool to query these abuses.

Please contact us if you think we are missing some key stories.

 

26 Sep 2018
In 2018, WhatsApp founder Brian Acton responded to the Cambridge Analytica scandal by tweeting "It is time. #deletefacebook." He also left the company, walking away from $850 million in unvested stock rather than accede to Facebook's plans to add advertising and commercial messaging, a purpose at
08 Jun 2018
Even after 2015, when Facebook said it had walled off user records from third parties, inside sources and court documents showed that the company went on maintaining a whitelist of companies that were allowed customised access to information about users' Friends, phone numbers, and a "friend link"
09 May 2018
In May 2018 Facebook announced it would partner with organisations in places such as Myanmar and South Sudan in order to develop more "context-specific" knowledge about how its platform is being abused to create real risks of harm and violence. In Myanmar, where telephone companies allowed Facebook
14 May 2018
In May 2018, Facebook said that as part of its investigation into how Cambridge Analytica had abused personal data on the social network, it had investigated thousands of apps on its platform and suspended about 200 of them. The company said it was investigating further to identify every app that
21 Jul 2018
In July 2018, Facebook announced it was investigating whether the Boston-based company Crimson Hexagon had violated the company's policies on surveillance. Crimson Hexagon markets itself as offering "consumer insights". Its customers include a Russian non-profit with ties to the Kremlin, and
17 Jul 2018
In July 2018 the three-year-old payment system Revolut notified the UK's National Crime Agency and the Financial Conduct Authority that it had found evidence of money laundering on its system. From its beginnings as a prepaid credit card operator, Revolut had branched out into small business
06 Nov 2018
In November 2018, HSBC announced a serious data breach in its US business between October 4 and 14, when fraudsters used credential stuffing to gain access to detailed account information relating to about 1% of its 1.4 million US customers. HSBC said that in response it had strengthened its login
27 Sep 2018
In 2018, experiments showed that despite the company's denials, ads could be targeted at specific Facebook users via information that the users had never given Facebook, such as phone numbers. The reason: Facebook allows advertisers to upload their own lists of phone numbers of email addresses, and
13 Jun 2018
In June 2018 Facebook announced it would install new controls to improve members' understanding of how companies targeted them with advertising, including letting them know if a data broker supplied the information. This was the second update to the company's policies in 2018; in March it attempted
09 Jul 2018
In 2018, economists Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamenica at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business showed that national divisions are so entrenched that details of what Americans buy, do, and watch can be used to predict, sometimes with more than 90% accuracy, their politics, race, income
17 Jul 2018
In 2018, the Berlin-based researcher Hang Do Thi Duc concluded after analysing more than 200 million public transactions made in 2017 that anyone can track the purchase history of a user of the peer-to-peer payment app Venmo. By accessing the data via an open API, Do Thi Duc was able to view the
30 Sep 2018
In September 2017, the UN Capital Development Fund, the UN Development Programme, and the non-profit San Francisco-based startup Kiva, which has worked for 13 years as a crowd-funded microlending platform announced a joint initiative to open up financial services to the 20% of the Sierra Leone
29 Sep 2018
A flaw in the official 2018 UK Conservative Party conference app granted both read and write access to the private data of senior party members, including cabinet ministers, to anyone who logged in by second-guessing the email address they used to sign into the app. Twitter users claimed that one
01 Aug 2018
The common reporting standard brought in by the UK's HMRC in 2018 require tax authorities to automatically exchange information on millions of citizens living abroad. In response, an EU citizen domiciled in Italy who formerly lived in the UK and maintains a UK bank account, filed a complaint with
13 Dec 2017
In 2017, Britain's' two biggest supermarkets, Tesco and Sainsbury's, which jointly cover 45% of the UK's grocery market, announced they would offer discounts on car and home insurance based on customers' shopping habits. For example, based on data from its Nectar card loyalty scheme, Sainsbury's
08 May 2018
In 2018, based on an analysis of 270,000 purchases between October 2015 and December 2016 on a German ecommerce site that sells furniture on credit, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research found that variables such as the type of device could be used to estimate the likelihood that a
In January 2019, it was discovered that the HIV-positive status of 14,200 people in Singapore, as well as their identification numbers and contact details, had been leaked online. According to a statement of the Ministry of Health, records leaked include 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed as HIV-positive
05 Nov 2018
Shortly before the November 2018 US midterm elections, the Center for Media and Democracy uncovered documents showing that the multi-billionaire Koch brothers have developed detailed personality profiles on 89 percent of the US population with the goal of using them to launch a private propaganda
24 Jul 2018
In 2018, 17 US states and the District of Columbia filed suit to block the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Emails released as part of the lawsuit show that the administration began pushing to add the question as early as the beginning of 2017, claiming it was to improve
23 Jul 2018
"Buzzer teams" - teams employed to amplify messages and create a buzz on social media - were used by all candidates in the 2017 Indonesian general elections. Coordinated via WhatsApp groups, many of the teams opened fake accounts to spread both positive and negative messages, as well as hate speech