By: Cory William Berlekamp
Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Facebook came under fire after a story broke about how Cambridge Analytics received and used user data, including swaying the 2016 Presidential Election.
The New York Times and The London Observer were the first outlets to break the news that the personal data of 87 million users was collected by the group. According to their articles, in 2014 around 300,000 Facebook users downloaded the app This Is Your Digital Life which included surveys that users could take.
The analyst who worked for Cambridge Analytics, Aleksandr Kogan, not only gathered users’ information but that of their friends. The number of those whose data was collected first jumped to 50 million and then eventually reached 87 million.
Cambridge Analytics, a group who collects and sells demographic information, is open to who they are and what they do on their website.
“We have up to 5,000 data points on over 230 million individual American consumers,” Cambridge Analytics states on their About Us page. “By combining these data assets with your own customer data as well as a proprietary research instrument, we build custom target audiences, which enable us to engage, persuade, and motivate individuals to act.”
Since the story first broke on March 16, the world has watched Facebook’s stocks fall, users delete their accounts and Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify in front of Congress.
According to a Time article referencing Forbes.com, Zuckerberg’s net worth went from $77 billion when the stock market closed Friday, March 15 to $66 billion around noon the following Tuesday. The fallout did not stop there. Tech.pinions, an opinion based research site, found that almost 10% of Americans have deleted their Facebook accounts since the scandal came to light.
A freshman at the University of Findlay Michaela Dewese is not surprised by this at all.
“It is not private if we put it out there anyway so I don’t think it’s a big deal,” said Dewese. “You have to make wise decisions. You can’t just put everything out there and I think most people do that.”
Dewese stopped using social media last year for personal reasons and now only gets on Facebook once a week to check up on her family.
Facebook itself is open on how they direct advertisements, which is based mostly on what is shared and liked by a user. In a mentalfloss.com article, Shaunacy Ferro wanted to find out which advertisers had her data and how much of it they had.
Ferro states that some of them were obvious since she liked them or followed them; The New York Times, Dominos and Target. But Ferro was confused how other groups and businesses like Viking Ocean Cruises, AARP Black Community (she is neither black nor old) and even multiple candidates in multiple elections from around the United States got her information. The article was published back in March of 2017.
Though the Cambridge Analytics news story did not surprise Dewese, it is why she has chosen to keep her social media use to a minimum.
“It’s like there’s nothing private anymore, there are no thoughts that are just in your head,” said Dewese. “Somebody asked me yesterday if I was going to be one of those moms that don’t let their kids on social media and yeah, definitely.”