Lately Cambridge Analytica, a renowned company recently got exposed on the face of international news about a scandal that had major political influences as well as privacy breaching accusations. Recently Facebook has also admitted that it shared the user’s data with Cambridge Analytica.
What exactly is the whole controversy about?
Cambridge Analytica acquired the personal information of over 50 million Facebook users. The intent was to build some sort of software that can target potential voters during the election campaign. Current US president Donald Trump’s victory also revolved around this same agenda. News channels and papers disclosed the facts with Cambridge Analytica’s co-founder himself Christopher Wylie. Wylie told the press that the company exploited Facebook, which is now one of the largest social media platforms.
Cambridge Analytica harvested millions of profiles, altogether building ‘models’ to exploit the users’ personal information. As quoted Wylie referred to them as targeting their ‘inner demons’. So, this was the base on which the entire company was built on, as stated by whistle-blower Christopher Wylie.
The app – ThisIsYourDigitalLife
His digital firm obtained data through an app, namely ThisIsYourDigitalLife during 2014. The app was built by Alexander Kogan, a researcher at Cambridge University. The fact is that users agreed to have provided their data for academic research purposes in return for a certain payment.
The app allegedly collected information from people outside the volunteer circle. In other words, the app collected information of the friends and relatives of those who had voluntarily downloaded the app for academic purposes.
Creation of 30 million psychographic profiles
Kogan provided all such information to Cambridge Analytica. The company created 30 million “psychographic profiles” that were designed for targeted political ads. The allegations that followed after such functions were so rampant it became quite a challenge for the world to keep track of.
Let us have a look at the aftermath
Investigations were initiated and the US Federal Trade Commission confirmed about their investigation of Facebook’s policies regarding user privacy and profile security, whereas UK officials raided Cambridge Analytica’s offices that were based in London.
On March 17, Analytica stated that the company deleted all data that was previously obtained from Kogan’s company when they realized that such Data had violated the policies of Facebook. Analytica also said that they used the Data obtained from Kogan’s company, Global ScienceIndian politics Research (GSR), as part of Trump’s presidential campaign services.
However, Kogan expressed a sense of shock as he stated that whatever his company was up to was under their notion ‘normal’. He told he felt like a scapegoat as he didn’t realize the scam and thought their functioning was carried on in an appropriate manner. The former report was from BBC.
An undercover footage by UK’s Channel 4
A news broadcast by UK’s Channel 4 also shows an undercover footage, where Analytica executives including Alexander Nix, the CEO were boasting about how they could bribe and manipulate politicians. There also have been significant questions raised against Cambridge Analytica regarding their involvement in other election campaigns.
Previous allegations against Cambridge Analytica
Observers placed criticisms about the fact that Analytica also tampered with Kenya’s elections where Uhuru Kenyatta was the eventual victor. It was furthermore believed that the company had worked with suspected Israeli hackers in an attempt to sway voters from the Nigerian elections in 2015, the attempts which were rendered unsuccessful.
Finally on Tuesday Wylie testifies in front of the UK parliamentary. Pro-Brexit campaigners had “cheated” by breaking laws on referendum spending limits whilst paying data to Aggregate IQ, a firm that was linked to Analytica for internet marketing purposes.
40% of Vote Leave’s entire budget was received by Aggregate IQ. Dominic Cummings post referendum winnings stated that nothing would have been possible without the assist of AggregateIQ. This very quote by Dominic Cummings was taken off from the website on Thursday after having been inquired by journalists.
What were the public/people’s reactions?
People were of course angry over Facebook. Following all former reports and testimonies, the hashtag #DeleteFacebook emerged as trending on Twitter. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO was questioned by the Congress. He was asked to testify on the matter and disclose every revealing fact about this social media outrage.
The share value of Zuckerberg dropped down 60 billion dollars drastically. Facebook however stated that no breach in data happened. Every sort of data was transferred under public consent and no illegal data distribution occurred. Neither was any password stolen nor any hacker infiltrated.
Violation of Facebook’s privacy policies
Kogan offered data to Cambridge Analytica, which was a third party and this had violated Facebook’s privacy policies. Facebook’s norm allows data, personal information to be collected only by academic or app creators. Third party selling and advertising means were strictly prohibited for the concern of secured privacy.
Furthernore, Facebook reassured the fact that Kogen, Analytica and most importantly Wylie had deleted all such information. Observers critically reported that the social media company took limited measures to contain the leaked data or assure its wipe-out.
The social media company also removed Kogan’s app but failed to suspend Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg apologized countless times stating that the matter was an outcome of betrayal, “breach of trust”. The CEO volunteered to testify before US authorities but declined to testify in front of the UK council.
How safe is the current social media platform
Now the ongoing concern and critical question that is raised, especially in public favor is that how safe is the current social media platform. Political links have raised the severity of the situation to even higher levels. User accounts’ data have been used to target election campaign ads and it has led to even more controversies regarding the elections.
Moreover, is Facebook trying to stop third parties from merging in and collecting data? Or is the platform secure enough to share every little piece of information? Serious questions have indeed been raised, as far as the user’s privacy is concerned.