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What’s going on with data privacy these days?

Published on 28 March 2018|
2 min read

If you think posting your entire life on social media is wise, you may want to think again.

by Tommy Duncan, Carrybeans 

Other than being a loud platform to show the world what you are eating or which party you’re at, social media can also be a way for companies to learn intricate details about your life and choices. Without ever turning up at your front door, they can practically know you.

In the past few weeks, the world has been talking about privacy concerns of the world wide web. It all began after giant social networking company Facebook fell under scrutiny. This followed allegations that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without permission.

What is Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica is a British political consulting firm that uses data and behavioural science to understand the thought processes of individuals. Through its research and study, the firm comes up with communication strategies that seeks to connect to the masses.

 

The firm, however, came into the spotlight when an investigation by the Guardian and Observer along with whistleblowers uncovered evidence alleging the firm had taken Facebook data without permission “to build a system that could target US voters with personalised political advertisements based on their psychological profile.” So, the 2016 US elections just came into the picture.

How did this tangle of a mess start?

Well, it seems to have started with an application. Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan launched a personality app on Facebook in 2014 for random users to fill up. Called thisismydigitallife, the app could harvest not just user data, but data of users’ friends. It’s all reportedly legal and abiding by Facebook’s tools and policies.

Aleksandr Kogan / Credit: Neowin

Apparently, Kogan’s licence on Facebook was to harness data for research company GSR only. So when he gathered information for commercial use, the social networking giant reportedly accused him of breaching their terms.

However, the academic maintains innocence and claims he has become a scapegoat of both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Denying the claim made from Cambridge Analytica that he had approached the consulting firm, Kogan said it was actually vice versa.

“That is a fabrication. They approached me; in terms of the usage of Facebook data they wrote the terms of service for the app. They provided the legal advice that this was all appropriate. So I’m definitely surprised by their comments and I don’t think they are accurate.”

Whistleblower claims $1 million used to harvest data

Meanwhile, Christopher Wylie, a data scientist and former contractor who helped build Cambridge Analytica’s algorithm reportedly said that the data obtained did have a role in the US presidential elections.

He also alleged that Facebook gave certain apps far-reaching powers beyond just user profiles.

“They had apps on Facebook that were given special permission to harvest data not from just the person who used the app or joined the app but also it would then go into their entire friend network and pull out all of the friends’ data as well.”

Facebook stocks have plunged since the reveal. The social networking company is conducting a full investigation into the allegations and published advertisements in US and UK newspapers apologising for a “breach of trust“. Governments have also gotten involved as further digging has unraveled ties to the US presidential election and Brexit.

However, Cambridge Analytica acting CEO Dr Alexander Tayler stated on 23 March that the company did not use any data obtained through GSR for the 2016 US presidential election. He further said the company is “undertaking an independent third-party audit to verify that we do not hold any GSR data.”

Whatever is going on, it’s not going away anytime soon.

What do you think on the above issues of privacy and data breaching? Do you think there’s any way to really safeguard privacy in this day an age? Let us know in the comments below!

Talking about making decision and getting results, does social media play a role in decision-making?

Featured Image Credit: Hannah Wei on Unsplash

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