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WhatsApp Hack: another Cambridge Analytica Moment?


Oct. 31 2019, Published 3:24 p.m. ET

Reuters reported a WhatsApp hack in which spyware targeted senior government officials in several countries, including India. Of course, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first scandal that has struck Facebook (FB). FB has faced several issues, the most prominent one being the Cambridge Analytica episode.

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WhatsApp hack

Reuters reported, “Senior government officials in multiple U.S.-allied countries were targeted earlier this year with hacking software that used Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp to take over users’ phones.”

Also, Indian media extensively reported on the alleged surveillance of human rights activists and journalists today. The Indian government has sought WhatsApp’s response over these hacking allegations.

FB and scandals

To be sure, this isn’t the first time FB finds itself in the news for the wrong reasons. Just this week, the company agreed to pay a fine to the British government over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) slapped a $5 billion fine on FB earlier this year.

Facebook, as well as other big tech companies like Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), and Alphabet (GOOG), are facing antitrust probes. Earlier this year, big tech companies testified before US lawmakers as part of an antitrust probe.

Big tech is also facing troubles in Europe—including the growing clamor for a digital tax. France has already approved a digital tax. The tax would hit tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Alphabet.

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WhatsApp hack adds to turmoil

Meanwhile, the WhatsApp hack could add to Facebook’s struggle. The company’s Libra project too faced heat from regulators. Today, the stock is trading higher amid the Facebook earnings beat. Apple also posted better-than-expected earnings and is trading higher today. And broader-market indices are in the red today amid fading optimism over a US-China trade deal.

Another Cambridge Analytica?

Reuters reported that after the WhatsApp hack episode, the company has “filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Israeli hacking tool developer NSO Group.” Over time, we’ll get to see whether the issue blows up to similar propositions as the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In any case, the WhatsApp hack reflects the vulnerabilities facing big tech and social media. Amid a growing chorus to break up big tech, these episodes could gain momentum.


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