The #DeleteFacebook Movement
In the technological era your data footprint is affecting your life in ways you cannot even imagine and it is the very reason behind the movement encouraging people to delete their Facebook account. You may think that you give away very little information about yourself online (I mean what can someone really do with a profile picture and your name anyway?), but the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica paints an entirely different picture.
They Know Everything About You
If you ever decide to run in a political campaign you will find that data can be extremely helpful. For example, you may want data to tell you who you should focus your campaign efforts on or which locations need the most attention. Cambridg Analytica is a company that is used in political campaigns (among other things) to provide such data. Specifically, they profile individuals and then use the profile they create to tailor political messages to those individuals.
Now, this isn’t an uncommon activity. Data collection is widespread and what they did isn’t particularly surprising. However, you should still be concerned – just take a look at what this data tells them…
Cambridge Analytica can use your data – your browsing history, your location, your friends, your pictures – to learn additional inferred information about you such as whether you have depression, what your sexual orientation is, and what you will buy next time you go shopping. In other words, data brokers can use pretty mundane and ordinary information about you to work out very personal information about you. Not only that, it is surprisingly accurate.
In short, data brokers are very creepy. Although Cambridge Analytica has the capacity to work out extremely intimate information about you by analysing basic data you provide to Facebook, other companies use data with much wider reaching consequences. One example of creepy data technology is smart CCTV. Smart, data-driven, software is now capable of assisting CCTV operators detect abnormal behaviour. It has been trialled and implemented in numerous cities, flagging up behaviour considered suspicious and notifying the relevant authorities.
Mind Control: Elections
Donald Trump hired Cambridge Analytica during his 2016 Presidential Campaign and people are now claiming that their data manipulation efforts influenced the outcome of the election. However, this is really unlikely.
It is true that Cambridge Analytica obtained the data, but to say they were able to effectively analyse that data on a mass scale is a step too far. There are hundred of similar companies providing similar services to other candidates during elections. In fact, in the 2016 presidential election every presidential candidate used a data company to profile individuals in efforts to persuade voters. By the time Trump hired Cambridge Analytica in 2016, Clinton had employed more than 60 mathematicians and analysts to assist her in her campaign. One company is unlikely to have influenced an election to a large enough degree to be held responsible for changing the general popular opinion.
What has Facebook got to do with this?
Cambridge Analytica’s data came from 87 million Facebook users that had been obtained when those users had downloaded a third-party app (i.e. an app other than Facebook). Actively Facebook did nothing wrong (they didn’t sell the data or give it to anyone), but their omission to deal with how Facebook data was used by other applications was their fault. In other words, you know when you grant an app permission to use your Facebook information?
Well Facebook didn’t give a flying fuck about what people/companies did with that information, which has now got them in a big pile of shit. It was this, then, that led many people to delete their Facebook profiles. However, Facebook are the creepiest of the lot – they don’t want to see you go. Even if you try to delete your account they will store your data for a long time after you leave and let even more companies handle your personal data without you knowing. Your data footprint has just started to grow and there is little you can do to make the Japanese knotweed of data stop.