Cambridge Analytica scandal just an indicator of what big tech does in harvesting your personal info
Facebook is trusted with the ownership and management of data provided by 2 billion people. In April, the Observer revealed how Cambridge Analytica, a company funded by conservative billionaire Robert Mercer, acquired and exploited the data associated with 50m Facebook profiles. It appears that while Facebook had been aware of what the Observer described as “unprecedented data harvesting” for two years, it did not notify the affected users.
Instead of accepting responsibility, its top executives argued (on Twitter) that the network had done nothing wrong: “This was unequivocally not a data breach,” Facebook vice-president Andrew Bosworth tweeted on Saturday. “People chose to share their data with third party apps and if those apps did not follow the data agreements with us then it is a violation. No systems were infiltrated, no passwords or information were stolen or hacked.”
In a sense, Facebook’s defense to the Cambridge Analytica story was more damning than the story itself.
The Facebook business model is to collect, share and exploit as much user data as possible, and it does this without express consent from users. Yes, every user agrees to a service user agreement, but Facebook has no safeguards in place to stop these being abused or extrapolated by third parties and then abused.
Facebook shares dropped 7%, taking $36bn off of the company’s valuation.
Did you delete your account in protest?
It’s not easy to remove yourself from Facebook. Firstly, there is the large archive of valuable material you have stored on there (and there only); all those old photos of friends and parties from years gone by, with no other digital copy.
Then there is the fact that there are so many hoops Facebook makes you leap through in order to extricate yourself from Facebook.
However, it is not a futile exercise.
Facebook likes to deliver a very different narrative to marketers than they do the wider public. The Observer: “They downplay their significance when challenged by the media about, for example, their influence on the 2016 US election. They downplay their power to deal with online harassment or the spread of fake news. However, if you’ve got an advertising budget and want to know how Facebook can persuade your target consumer to buy your product, it’s a different story. Suddenly, Facebook is an all-knowing entity with unrivaled information; it can get almost anyone to do almost anything. While Facebook presents itself to the public as a social network, when addressing the advertising industry, it is very clear about the fact that it’s a surveillance system”.
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