Topic: Family, Life & ExperiencesFriends

Last updated: February 13, 2020

Facebook which is considered as the world’s largest social media platform has been involved in a controversy which is one of the biggest controversies Facebook had ever faced. Cambridge analytica, a research and data analysis firm started collecting personal information of about 87 million Facebook users to try and understand more about them and change how they vote. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal is one of the biggest breach of trust over the years.
‘This is your digital life’ was an app developed at the global science research in 2014 by Aleksandra Kogan, a lecturer at the University of Cambridge. It was an app for personality predictions and the users had to take a psychological test and the app collected the data. It also gathered data on a user’s Facebook friends. By doing this, they were able to collect data of almost 300 users from a single user. What led to the controversy was that the data collected was sent to Cambridge analytica which is a data analytics company without the user’s permission. This was against the social network rules and policies which created a breach of trust. The data that was collected was provided to Cambridge analytica by Aleksandra Kogan which was used for targeted political ads in the UK’s Brexit referendum campaign as well as by Trump’s team during the 2016 US elections.
Mark Zuckerberg developed the social networking site called Facebook back in 2007 and now it has been more than a decade that Facebook has become a social media giant changing people’s lives. Facebook has millions of users from around the world and when such a scandal takes place, naturally a question arises that ‘who is to be blamed?’ This question is way more complicated than it might appear at first glance. Ultimately the responsibility falls on the shoulders of Cambridge analytica, Facebook, the U.S. Government and even ourselves as consumers. So when such a scandal takes place, it creates a bad impression on the company. It’s not the first time that Facebook has faced a controversy like this. Many a times there has been instances where Facebook’s privacy policies had been questioned, where users felt that the data shared by them were not secure. Since then Facebook altered its privacy policy to make sure that the user’s data was safe in their site and also had options enabling the users to choose from who and which app can access the user’s information they share on Facebook which to a great extend was successful. But the Cambridge analytica shows that Facebook’s privacy policy is still not up to the mark. After the data leak issue had come up through reports in The Guardian and The New York Times, Mark Zuckerberg posted a statement in his Facebook account. He also apologised for the ‘breach of trust’. In one of the reports, it said that Facebook already knew that the data was being harvested and that they did not inform their users about this. A data breach happens when the security measures fail and so data gets lost or transmitted to another party in an unauthorised manner. In the case of Facebook, data was lost, but a breach suggests that there has been some sort of wall or a protection that has been undone and that isn’t what has happened. In fact the whole system works exactly as it should and as it does without much controversy every day. But Facebook also gave a statement that Aleksandre Kogan, the developer of the app collected the information and did so in a legitimate way. So this app requested and gained the permission from the Facebook users and the information was provided only with the consent of the people. What made it unethical was that, the collected info was passed onto another party without the knowledge or consent of Facebook and its users. But there was no systems infiltrated or passwords and other sensitive pieces of information that was stolen or hacked. In one of the statements by Zuckerberg, it mentioned that, he was apologetic to such a situation and also provided steps that Facebook will be taking so that this does not happen again.
But the entire blame cannot be put on just Facebook in the case of this scandal. Cambridge analytica, being a firm that uses data to influence audience’ behaviour did so through political ads in Facebook during the 2016 US elections. It is also noted that the company has been closely associated with Donald Trump and the Brexit Campaigns. Being able to influence 230 million American voters is a big deal and Cambridge analytica did so in an unauthorised manner by using data that was gathered from Facebook. Through this around 87 million user’s accounts were affected. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the government too to take more steps in order to stop these kinds of privacy violations. It should create more efficient and consistent standards for tech companies like Facebook so that any other such situations may not arise in future. So government also plays a vital role in such issues.
Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the consumers too as it is the consumers who created such an environment for such issues to even take place. Most of the times, we give up our data without any second thoughts to many apps, companies and various sites. Our thoughts are only focused on the benefits we derive from using such apps and for the whole fun of it. It’s a well-known fact that Facebook has helped us in building relationships and also helped us in keeping connected with our kith and kin, but how much personal data these companies have with them must also be considered. After all, it’s purely our decision on how much these sites should know about us.
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal has brought an awareness among the public on how much data Facebook has with it and how this data can be manipulated without the knowledge of its users. What we can do as consumers, is to be more cautious and alert and remember how our data can be exploited.
Not all data harvesting is harmful. Sites like Facebook do need inputs from its users for the development of the site. Use of the data only becomes harmful when it’s exploited for ways to influence people’s behaviour in an unethical manner. There is a lot of places to point fingers at and Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, Alexandre Kogan and even us, all are responsible for this situation in one way or another.


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