How Cambridge Analytica Sparked The Great Privacy Awakening

from Wired

ON OCTOBER 27, 2012, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote an email to his then-director of product development. For years, Facebook had allowed third-party apps to access data on their users’ unwitting friends, and Zuckerberg was considering whether giving away all that information was risky. In his email, he suggested it was not: “I’m generally skeptical that there is as much data leak strategic risk as you think,” he wrote at the time. “I just can’t think of any instances where that data has leaked from developer to developer and caused a real issue for us.”

If Zuckerberg had a time machine, he might have used it to go back to that moment. Who knows what would have happened if, back in 2012, the young CEO could envision how it might all go wrong? At the very least, he might have saved Facebook from the devastating year it just had.

But Zuckerberg couldn’t see what was right in front of him—and neither could the rest of the world, really—until March 17, 2018, when a pink-haired whistleblower named Christopher Wylie told The New York Times and The Guardian/Observer about a firm called Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica had purchased Facebook data on tens of millions of Americans without their knowledge to build a “psychological warfare tool,” which it unleashed on US voters to help elect Donald Trump as president. Just before the news broke, Facebook banned Wylie, Cambridge Analytica, its parent company SCL, and Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher who collected the data, from the platform. But those moves came years too late and couldn’t stem the outrage of users, lawmakers, privacy advocates, and media pundits. Immediately, Facebook’s stock price fell and boycotts began. Zuckerberg was called to testify before Congress, and a year of contentious international debates about the privacy rights of consumers online commenced. On Friday, Kogan filed a defamation lawsuit against Facebook.

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4 Responses to How Cambridge Analytica Sparked The Great Privacy Awakening

  1. Jack F Comfort March 27, 2019 at 11:41 am #

    The fact whether or not Facebook collected your data boils down to whether or not they put it in their user agreement. If they made note in it that they wanted to collect your data and you agreed unknowingly, then shame on you for not reading the terms of service. If they never said anything about collecting and selling your data, that’s when this becomes an issue. Selling people’s personal and private information without their acknowledgement should be illegal and looked down upon. If they did receive permission then I wouldn’t blame Facebook for doing what they did, even if it is a shady business practice. A companies main purpose is to make money so who can blame them for wanting to make money. It’s actually very impressive how Facebook found a way to make money off of a free social networking website that doesn’t sell any type of inventory. While I’m not advocating for the shady business practices Facebook got involved with, I’m merely admiring how they found an innovative way to make revenue.

  2. Joseph Oates April 1, 2019 at 8:05 pm #

    Issie LaPowsky brings up this new idea that has only been brought to light in the last year, privacy on the internet. Many people when the internet first started to connect people with social media, from AIM instant messaging, and MySpace, where hesentaint to join for the reason of private information being let out. Now the current mega giant of social media, Facebook is causing this mass hysteria of private information being used by major corporations. As years passed by and social media happened to by part of the lives of those to grow up with the idea of being connected with the world. They did not think about the possibility of all their information to be stolen, or sold by major corporations for their personal gain. Mark Zuckerberg had known about the possibility of this by one of his employees. As he believed that it would impossible for anyone to get their personal information. However with companies like Facebook, and Google storing information for the use of their companies. Many people see this as an invasion of person space and wrong, as they do not consent to their information being stored. This idea is going to be one of the biggest arguments of law that we will have for some time. With people arguing that companies do not have the right to take their information for their personal gain by pushing their agendas. Some companies are up front about what they are doing with their information. As when you go to some website, you will see a pop up saying that cookies are used on that website. While every website may use cookies to help get companies to sponsor the website. The issue of personal information being taken can only be protected by one of two ways, either by websites blocking users that do not accept that their information could be used as cookie does, or by having the government come in. The legal way that some states are looking to implement are that residents are able to not give up their information. However this will be a very difficult to implement on many if not all websites. Companies will have issues in getting the information to know who does not want their personal information to be public. Having companies to build algorithms that will find those that do not what information out, will cause companies to ignore the laws. Just as the laws that California are trying to implement in January will be tough for businesses, it will be tough for the government to enforce. This kind of law is almost just for show as there’s almost no way to enforce it. This will also cause for issue based around if it is constitutional of a law. As going in to the website could be argued that they are giving consent for what is being used on their social media site. Every person that joins a social media site has to accept terms and conditions before making an account. Forcing companies to make build programs and update them year to year will cause them to lash back. Either by blocking states that are forcing them to do this, or by putting into their terms that they will use the information as they see fit.

  3. Abdulrafay Amir April 23, 2019 at 11:47 am #

    It is clear that our privacy as individuals has been an issue for many years to come. Sadly, many companies do not see our issue with this to be much of a problem. It is clear that behind the scenes, many companies and even government corporations have collected data on us as a people and have surveillance on almost all people. At this point, nobody sees that as a crazy notion because we can see so much proof indicating this notion. It was very astonished to learn about this Analytica that managed to “recruit” voters for Trump during this past 2016 election. This tells me and many other people that these companies can all create a database that can predict our habits and actions, and this can be used and manipulated for their goals to be accomplished. Sadly, we cannot do much about this but to wait on the states and countries we live in who have individuals that believe this is enough and demand some sort of regulations to be put in place to have these companies comply. However, I suspect that there isn’t a real solution to our reoccurring problem of privacy because the power these “big players” have is not going to be tied down to “rules and regulations”. It will be very interesting to see the way this situation begins to develop over the coming years and how the people in our society react.

  4. Peter Honczaryk April 26, 2019 at 11:34 am #

    After reading the article it was shocking to see exactly what Cambridge Analytica did. Cambridge is a British political consulting firm which combined data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication during the electoral processes. The fact that they purchased Facebook data for tens of millions of dollars is incredible. This gives Cambridge the upper hand over anyone else. They have spent so much money on this data but in the end they are bound to make tens millions more than what they gave to purchase the data information. It is scary that companies are this desperate to get information off of other companies in order to make another million. This is a violation of privacy that most actually do not even consider. Most people just believe that the world is safer than it actually is but do not see the potential risk that they are possibly going to be involved in down the road when companies like Cambridge are going to pay millions for your personal data so that they could possibly make a quick dollar off of u. This is great for Cambridge but horrible for the people they mining off of. Now they can advertise to potential clients and people who they can buy from them. If you look up Cambridge now, they are actually facing legal troubles right now because of the violation of privacy. Now Facebook is also facing potential lawsuits but its not like this will affect them since they did get tens of millions of dollars from Cambridge to begin with. This is good for everyone else because it gives people the opportunity to see exactly how little facebook cares about your privacy. One of the things that facebook has gotten rid of now after the scandal is they got rid of personality quizzes. This is probably just a way for them to try and cover for themselves for they did. Personality quizzes give off lots of personal data and allows for facebook to know even more information about you than you were planning on giving out which can affect your privacy and security. Overall people need to realize that facebook is dangerous and people need to be more aware of what it can do.

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