By MAYA PAGE
In past weeks, Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg have dominated the headlines and received harsh scrutiny from both the media and the public. The once leading Silicon Valley company may have met its demise.
Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm hired by President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, gained access to 50 million Facebook users’ private information, bringing up the question of ethics in Facebook’s data privacy settings. The firm used a personality quiz app to identify and influence American voters in the election.
The New York Times reviewed a portion of the data and found that, “the idea was to map personality traits based on what people had liked on Facebook, and then use that information to target audiences with digital ads.”
The data expert at Cambridge Analytica was able to obtain 50 million profiles, but only about 270,000 users actually participated in the survey. This means that
the majority of information collected was from users who never consented to having their data harvested, and they did not even download the app.
Facebook said that “no passwords or sensitive pieces of information had been taken, though information about a user’s location was available to Cambridge,” according to the Times. The firm collected voting histories, age, income, debt, hobbies, criminal histories, purchase histories, religious leanings, health concerns, gun ownership, car ownership and homeownership, to name a few.
The fact that Cambridge Analytica was able to get such private information raises concerns in itself, but the bigger issue here is that Facebook profits solely on
its users’ data. Users are the product.
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg interviewed with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie and received backlash after trying to convince viewers that Facebook does not sell personal data to advertisers. Guthrie asked, “If McDonald’s sells burgers, and Starbucks sells coffee, what’s Facebook selling?”
“We’re selling the opportunity to connect with people, but it’s not for sale,” Sandberg said.
Facebook has been trying to spin this situation to the best of its abilities to make it seem as if they are taking information for user benefits. However, it is undeniable that Facebook is an ad-based business and is not just simply a free social networking site. You’re paying at the expense of your privacy.
Social media has become a part of most Americans’ everyday lives. Wake up, check the socials. Go to bed, check the socials. The dependency people have on social media has created an opening for corporations to invade the lives of many, including pushing political agendas.
Facebook has been in hot water in the past, but because the site is now tied to Donald Trump’s election, people are becoming concerned.
Users have known for years that Facebook harvests search results and information, but it was easy to look past when politics were not involved. For example, a search for sneakers on Google will show up as an ad on Facebook, something that does not usually cause concern.
Trump was elected president, and it’s hard to believe that a social media site was the sole reason for that. The people that voted for Trump were going to vote for him no matter what ad came up on their feed. It’s a bit ridiculous to hold Facebook responsible for the election of a president, even if they were conducting unethical advertising.
The Cambridge Analytica situation has created a pathway to a much needed and overdue wake up call for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. The media and public are determined to hold the billion-dollar company responsible. The outcome will hopefully be the creation of regulations that protect the privacy of users and policies to change Facebook’s analytics.