“Data is the new oil”, this is undeniable. It’s data or information that charts out business growth and scaling, even in terms of which demography to expand to, which kind of people to reach to, or to which age group to target. Everything depends on data. Data drive smart decisions. Predictive data analytics, big data have been buzzwords for quite some time now and there are multi-billion dollar enterprises existing just because of their business revolves around data.
You must have heard about the recent uproar in the media about a firm named Cambridge Analytica. The company is accused of trading millions of American citizens’ data from an academic researcher. They informed Facebook that the information is collected strictly for academic purposes.
Well, this article lets take a piecemeal approach on what the Cambridge Analytica scandal is all about and how you as a netizen can protect your data from pilferage and theft.
Everything You Need to Know About Cambridge Analytica Scandal & How You Can Protect Your Data
Dissecting what Cambridge Analytica Cambridge Analytica Scandal does
This is what Wikipedia says about the firm
“Cambridge Analytica is a Delaware registered LLC, formally headquartered in New York City, which combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process. It was created in 2013 as an offshoot of its British parent company SCL Group to participate in American politics”
Cambridge Analytica claims to build psychological profiles of voters in order to help its clients win elections. It claimed to possess cutting-edge psychographic profiles that in turn judge voters’ personalities better than their own friends can and the company had to harvest huge amounts of information.
So what did the company do wrong?
In a recent finding by Channel 4 news, it was stated that the company used unfair means to make political candidates win. It is alleged that these tactics were used by the company in several elections like 2016 US presidential election and also the Brexit vote.
How did they do it?
Here is where Facebook gets involved and the role of Aleksandr Kogan, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, who built an app that collected demographic data of millions of Facebook users, largely without their knowledge. Aleksandr Kogan Global Science Research created an app called “this is your digital life“. He got consent from Facebook for the usage of data only for research purposes. But this was where the scam began. Cambridge Analytica got access to this data and used this for their business purpose for influencing elections.
Facebook’s stand on the issue.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially turned his back on the press and media, but later on, he admitted that Facebook made grave mistakes and agreed that his company failed to responsibly protect the data of customers. He gave a timeline explaining how the improper data harvesting occurred and said that in 2014 the company changed its practices to limit the ability of “abusive apps” to collect data from users and their other Facebook friends without their consent. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has issued a statement clearing that the company will have strict rules against data abuse by the business owners.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg is still to testify in front of Congress how Facebook will protect its users from data theft. He was urged by the U.S Senate themselves. The head of the European Parliament stated that they will carry out an investigation to see whether any data was misused.
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who was a previous employee of Cambridge Analytica, said that it amassed the details of millions of people without their consent via a personality quiz on Facebook called This is Your Digital Life that was created by an academic for Global Science Research. Earlier, a High Court hearing on an attempt by the UK’s information commissioner to search the office of Cambridge Analytica was adjourned until Friday. Elizabeth Denham is seeking a warrant to access the databases and servers of the company amid claims it improperly used data from Facebook users on behalf of political clients.
How can you protect your data?
There are multiple things to be aware of if you have to control who has access to your data and how your data should be kept safe.
- Keep a tab on apps, especially those that require you to log in using your Facebook credentials – they always set a range of permissions and many are specifically designed to pick up your data
- Use an ad blocker to limit advertising and spam content always
- Check your security settings and make sure you are known for what is kept on. Also, find the individual app settings to check whether you have given them permission to view your friends as well as yourself.
- You can download a copy of the data Facebook holds on you, although it is not comprehensive. There is a download button at the bottom of the General Account Settings tab. However, bear in mind that your data may be less secure sitting on your laptop than it is on Facebook’s servers if your device is hacked.
You can of course, simply leave Facebook, but the campaign group Privacy International warns that privacy concerns extend beyond the social network.