I wish I could say that I was surprised by the Facebook data loss and the intentions of Cambridge Analytica.
But that would be a lie.
The size of the data loss (now 87 million records) is a little surprising, but not much else.
There are two dimensions to this Cambridge Analytica — Facebook situation.
- Everyone has known that Facebook collects huge amounts of data and performs a wide variety of analysis on the social graphs created by their members using AI and deep learning techniques.
This is not new. Facebook has been in this business from the start.
They have created a product that is designed using the latest psychological research on how to hook the human brain into repeated use.
Much like a drug dealer.
They must have members online using their Apps in order to sell their members to ‘advertisers’.
While I surmise that most of their users know that Facebook is making money of their information, I would also say that nearly all have no idea on how much data is actually collected and what can be learned or derived from that information.
This is something that needs to be addressed.
- The behaviour of Cambridge Analytica and their intentional taking of the profile data and then using this data for the creation of manipulative messages and ads.
Tie this in with the fact the researcher who provided the data is Russian with ties to a university in St. Petersburg and all of Donald Trump’s troubles, and one may start to develop paranoid tendencies.
This Facebook and Cambridge Analytica situation is just the beginnings of what I believe is the new reality we as a society must face.
These platforms can be turned into weapons, and there are many individuals and organizations that are only too glad to do this.
On the positive side (if there is a positive side in this mess), the fact that this is a European company involved in this breach I believe is a very good thing.
I believe that if this had been a US company, it would have disappeared pretty quickly from the news.
Currently, Europe takes data privacy and personal ownership of data much more seriously than the US.
This is clearly evident with the pending implementation of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).
GDPR can be looked at either a good instrument to support organizations that want build trust with their customer through transparency on their use of personal data, or it can be a hammer to nail organizations that are cavalier or sloppy.
Finally, while I have no specific knowledge of others, I wonder how many more organizations or researchers were behaving like Cambridge Analytica?
I find it very unlikely that Cambridge Analytica is/was the only organization behaving in this manner.
That thought is very disturbing.
Michael Shea contributes to The Pillar Project. Pillar is an ambitious project to return ownership of personal data to you. We will do this through decentralised blockchain technology, starting with a token wallet.
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