Cambridge Analytica’s Scandal and Threat to the Personal Data in Facebook -By Abdullah Al Mahmud
Very recently whistle-blowing news got appeared on newspapers and that is Facebook is giving its users’ data to the third party. After this big scandal revealed on newspapers like Guardian and BBC, tech giant Facebook’s data security trust among its users has been sandwiched over the media and people are now interacting with ‘Delete Facebook’, a campaign against the use of Facebook, called by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton. A good number of celebrities around the world have talked against the Facebook and their opinion is Facebook is not giving safety for their user’s data. Not only that, somebody even accused Facebook of taking lots of irrelevant data from their users.
When a user installs Facebook it takes some unnecessary conditions from users. It urges access into user’s camera, personal message, location, photo gallery, email, contacts list which is completely irrelevant in using Facebook. Because Facebook is just a social networking by which users can communicate with others in virtual life where access to personal message and photo gallery is totally unnecessary. A complaint against Facebook often rises that it leaks or sells its user’s data to third party which is completely the violation of right to privacy. As in the last USA election President D. J. Trump’s co-operative campaigner “Cambridge Analytica” got the access into about 50 million user’s personal data via Facebook. However, the app did not collect personal information only from the people who downloaded it, but also from unknowing friends. Kogan, a Russian-American researcher at Cambridge University, provided information from more than 50 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica, which was used by the company to create 30 million “psychographic” profiles that could then be used to design targeted political ads.
Question comes are we actually safe on Facebook? The answer is no. Normally when we check in any place or give ‘Interested’ or ‘Going In’ in any event Facebook stores all this data about us and our interests in their server. Although Facebook rejected the claim that a data breach had happened. “People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked,” it said in a statement. When the data harvesting was taking place, Facebook’s policy allowed for the collection of friends’ data by app creators and academics though selling this data to third parties or using it for advertising was not prohibited. But what is reality? Cambridge Analytica literally sandwiched such claim of Facebook authority.
Literally what was the scandal? 50 million Facebook users had their data exposed by Facebook authority and then exposed this raw data to Cambridge Analytica (A political consulting firm that worked on Trump Campaign). Question is ‘How is the trump campaign connected to Cambridge Analytica?’ The fact is that Steve Bannon, recently widowed chief white house consoler of D. J. Trump’s first 7 months, is the vice-president of this firm and he introduced CA to trump campaign and convinced them to fund CA. and CA worked in their directed way. Although Facebook claimed after this all that this was not their fault. In this tech-world everyone has access to data and information. But the direction or method of its use depends on your mind and thought. How you look individual’s safety and how you judge anyone’s choice, preference. As former Google engineer Yonatan Zunger wrote for the Boston Globe over the weekend, computer science is undergoing a “reckoning” and an “ethics and morality crisis” not unlike what has happened in chemistry with dynamite, in physics with nuclear bombs, and in human biology with eugenics. He remarked that the same thing is now happening to Facebook. The data scientists Mashable spoke who said that they didn’t see their jobs in jeopardy but did foresee future changes in the tech world that are long overdue. But it remains to be seen who will take direct action and whether or not any of these moves are the right decision. But the concern is that a big tech giant like Facebook can’t give the safety to its user’s data. From that standpoint of trust Facebook had been dashed their fame and people are losing their trust on Facebook. But this highlights a larger debate over how much users can trust Facebook with their data. Facebook allowed a third-party developer to engineer an application for the sole purpose of gathering and collecting data. And the developer was able to exploit a loophole to gather information on not only people who used the app but all their friends without noticing or informing them. But former Facebook employees have said that there’s tension tautness between the security team and the legal or policy team in terms of how they prioritize user’s protection in their decision-making.
“The people whose job is to protect the user always are fighting an uphill battle against the people whose job is to make money for the company,” Sandy Parakilas, who worked as a consultant on the privacy side of Facebook, told the New York Times. It would be one thing if that was a new case and one-time error. But Facebook has known about this for at least two years and only now are they actually acknowledging that they made a mistake.
Now what’s wrong with Facebook? If we look behind the screen what Facebook is actually doing with us then it’s so shocking to hear. A Facebook user pays Facebook for his/her very identity. When a user uses Facebook they log everything you do. The pages he or she likes the people he or she interacts with even the words in his or her status updates. Then they take the information about the user and analyze it and then assemble a detailed profile of who he or she is. They know users habits, preferences. They can even determine your risk tolerance or sexual orientation by analyzing your status updates. And at last, they sell this information to advertisers. Simply when you post couple of pictures with pizza they collect your data in that way that you’re a ‘Pizza-Lover’ and then customize your timeline with different types of pizza shop’s advertising. Sometime even you see discount offers from ‘Pizza-Hut’ shown on your timeline automatically. Have ever noticed it? We just know Facebook is showing us various ads but we don’t know how deep Facebook’s tentacles really go. They actually records which ads we see then make partnership with firms that monitor what we do in the real world. This has got to be one of the most invasive and superb advertising system ever devised. Facebook can actually determine who’s the most vulnerable to an advertisement campaign. May be even Facebook itself doesn’t know the limit of this. So in this tech world you’re just a product and are being used for their business purpose. They sell all the data to their business partners and they use it to advertise you. So it’s not merely an overstatement if I say Facebook is sometime just doing cyber-bullying to our generation.
Social networking sites like Facebook encourage people to be more public about their personal lives. Because intimate details of our lives can be posted so easily, users are prone to bypass the filters they might usually employ when talking about their private lives. What’s more, the things they post remain available indefinitely for a certain time of duration. While at one moment a photo of friends doing shots at a function may seem completely harmless, the image may appear less impressive in the context of an employer doing a background check. While most tech-sites allow their users to control who sees the things they’ve posted, such clampdowns are often forgotten, can be difficult to control or don’t work and are advertised. So at the end it’s completely your decision whether you quit from Facebook or not. But if you feel you’re secured in Facebook then let it be continued but if you feel uncomfortable then it is the right time to think about quit Facebook.
The writer is an undergraduate student of the
University of Dhaka.