JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Rudiantara, has called for a social media detox following Facebook’s revelation that the personal data of more than a million Indonesian users may have been improperly accessed.
“I call on Indonesians to temporarily fast from using social media. If they really have to use it, please be really careful when sharing personal data,” Rudiantara told Arab News in a telephone interview on Saturday.
Rudiantara said he contacted Facebook representatives in Indonesia two weeks ago and gave them a verbal warning over the possible data breach when initial reports of Cambridge Analytica scandal emerged.
After Facebook disclosed in a blog post on Wednesday that a large number of Indonesian users’ data had been shared with Cambridge Analytica, Rudiantara summoned company representatives for a meeting on Thursday and gave them a warning letter.
“We asked them to provide us with their audit results to see how personal information of Indonesian users have been used. We also asked Facebook to block third-party applications from accessing Indonesian users’ personal data,” he said.
Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer wrote in the blog post that the firm believes information from up to 87 million users worldwide may have been improperly shared.
According to the chart in the post, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are among the top 10 countries whose citizens’ personal data may have been harvested for Cambridge Analytica’s inappropriate use.
The chart shows that data of 1.75 million users in the Philippines, which is second to US users, could have been leaked, followed by Indonesia with more than a million users. In Vietnam, ranked ninth in the chart, about 427,000 users are believed to have been affected.
Rudiantara said he had asked police to probe alleged violations of electronic information and transactions law on the misuse of Indonesia users’ data. If Facebook is found guilty of violations, its representatives in Indonesia could face a maximum 12 years in prison and a fine of up to 12 billion Indonesian rupiah ($870,000).
In an emailed response to questions from Arab News, Facebook said it was committed to protecting people’s information, and plans to make privacy controls and settings available in all countries. The firm said it had taken significant steps to make its privacy tools easier to find, restrict data access on Facebook, and make its terms and data policy clearer.
“Overall, we believe these changes will better protect people’s information, and we will keep our community updated as we make more changes. We will continue to work with privacy and information commissioners, and authorities, in Indonesia,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote.
Indonesians are among the world’s most active social media users.
A survey in October 2017 by the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association and the Indonesian Telecommunications Society showed Facebook is the second most popular social media application on smartphones, used by 66.5 percent of respondents. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, was most popular, with 82.6 percent of respondents.
The survey found 79 percent of respondents objected to having their personal data being transferred to another party without their consent. Almost all respondents said they acknowledged personal data shared online should be protected and that the government should draft legislation protecting personal data shared online.
Rudiantara said the data leak should prompt lawmakers to start deliberating a personal data protection bill. Data protection is currently covered by a 2016 ministerial decree.