22 March 2018
The news of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and the huge – alleged – data misuse comes as confirmation of what many have long suspected.
Unfortunately, when you sign up to use a site like Facebook there is of course going to be a trade-off. You use their platform they use you and your data. The problem comes when that information is misused.
It certainly raises the question if Facebook has an ethical obligation to ensure that the businesses using the platform to gather data don’t then use it to manipulate users, like you and me.
Facebook ‘made mistakes’
Whilst Zuckerberg has come out with a statement today, it’s clear that he and the company are not taking the blame. The statement is far from an apology and more a list of what they plan to do going forward.
Of course, Facebook hasn’t directly shared any data. Information gathered through the platform is only granted when users accept terms and conditions of these apps. However, I don’t think it is clear enough what you’re granted access to when you use these apps. The apps could be anything from the popular game Farmville to one-off personality tests and quizzes. Cambridge Analytica used a personality type quiz to collect data on 270,000 users and some public data from their friends.
That’s a huge red flag for me. I am reasonably technically minded but hadn’t considered that when we link apps to Facebook we also grant these apps access to our friends’ data. I assumed perhaps I’d linked a handful of apps to my profile, in fact there were more than 150!
It’s essential to protect our data
Facebook needs to step up its commitment to ethically handling our data. The backlash has been huge. Ironically one of the top trending stories on the site itself has been Delete Facebook! I’m interested to see just how many people turn their backs on Facebook.
Ultimately, people are emotional by their very nature. Democracies shouldn’t allow companies to influence and play on these emotions with fake or unregulated content. When this content is combined with extremely intelligent profiling and targeting techniques using this data, it’s a recipe for a potential miscarriages of democracy.
The mainstream news channels are subject to certain rules, verifying their sources and providing balance, but social media is becoming the new Wild West. People are able to do what they please. I think it’s well beyond time for regulation on this activity.
I’ve no doubt that Facebook created their platform for the right reasons, but there are always people who are ready to take advantage of it.
Take a look at my advice for taking back control of your data: