Facebook has grown to be one of the biggest social media platforms today, but many users have recently been left wondering what exactly has been able to lead them to that point.
Recently Facebook has been the talk around the world lately, and not for good reasons. A couple of weeks ago news was released that a researcher named Alexsandr Kogan, a Russian American who worked at Cambridge Analytica, came to the company and accessed around now 87 million user’s data that was eventually exposed. According to their website, Cambridge Analytica is a British political consulting firm which ultimately combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process.
In a simpler form, Data mining means finding data, and data brokerage means selling the data that was found. This company has been using the information they have gathered to influence the electoral processes all around the world and even though it is unethical, it is still somewhat legal.
Kogan built a Facebook app that was a quiz. This quiz not only connected the data of the people who took the quiz, but it also exposed a loophole in Facebook API that allowed it to collect data from the Facebook users’ friends who took the quiz as well. Facebook allowed this app and apps like it to mine millions of their users’ personal data for years.
Even though Facebook supposedly prohibits the selling of the data collected to be sold, this company went ahead and sold it anyways. According to The Guardian, Facebook denied the entire scandal was true until Christorpher Wylie came forward with signed documents stating that Cambridge Analytica had funded the harvesting of Facebook profiles; only then was the company finally forced to own up to it.
Facebook knew in December of 2015 that data had been harvested by Cambridge Analytica and still kept it quiet. According to The Guardian, Cambridge ultimately did this to create a system that could target US voters with political advertisements curated to their psychological profile. The New York Times also explains that Cambridge also developed techniques to support their work during President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Some Texas A&M-University Corpus Christi students felt that people should have almost seen this coming because of the digital age we are in. Senior Art major Wyatt Page said he believes people in the political industry will do anything to get some votes.
“I believe people have been taking our information and selling it before Facebook even existed,” Page said. “It is really no shocker that Facebook got caught doing this in the first place. All of our information that we put on the internet that we think is “private” is actually not private at all and that is what people really need to realize. If they didn’t use this for the Trump campaign then they would have used the information they took for something else to corrupt.”
Some students feel it is probably best to just not to use social media at all. Although it has become such a huge part of our society, senior art major Ali Dunman said he feels like the society has grown dependent on it.
“If you do not want people taking information about you then it’s probably just best to remain off social media all together,” Dunman said. “Being as big of an issue as it is then maybe we need to rethink our de- pendency on social media. I am in no way justifying the actions that Facebook has done but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that something like this has happened in the first place.”
In response to the controversy, according to Politico,Facebook has already modified some of its policies, including requiring buyers of so called “issue ads” to confirm their location and identity, and also requiring them to display a disclaimer label revealing who paid for the ad, similar to the changes the company is making with election-related ads. Meantime, congressional leaders have called on Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before both the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee and House Energy & Commerce committee.