Facebook says Cambridge Analytica scandal may affect 87 million users

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

NEW YORK — Facebook revealed Wednesday that tens of millions more people might have been exposed in the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal than previously thought and said it will restrict the user data that outsiders can access.

Those developments came as congressional officials said CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify next week, while Facebook unveiled a new privacy policy that aims to explain the data it gathers on users more clearly — but doesn’t actually change what it collects and shares.

This Monday, all Facebook users will receive a notice on their Facebook feeds with a link to see what apps they use and what information they have shared with those apps. They’ll have a chance to delete apps they no longer want. Users who might have had their data shared with Cambridge Analytica will be told of that. Facebook says most of the affected users are in the U.S.

With outsiders’ access to data under scrutiny, Facebook outlined several changes to further tighten its policies.

Facebook is restricting access that apps can get about users’ events, as well as information about groups such as member lists and content. In addition, the company is also removing the option to search for users by entering a phone number or an email address. While this helped individuals find friends, Facebook says businesses that had phone or email information on customers were able to collect profile information this way.

This comes on top of changes announced a few weeks ago. For example, Facebook has said it will remove developers’ access to people’s data if the person has not used the app in three months.

Earlier Wednesday, Facebook unveiled a new privacy policy that seeks to clarify its data collection and use.

Although Facebook says the policy changes aren’t prompted by recent events or tighter privacy rules coming from the EU, it’s an opportune time. It comes as Zuckerberg is set to appear April 11 before a House committee — his first testimony before Congress. Separately, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and various authorities in Europe are investigating.