How confident are you in your online footprint?
As much as we keep our profiles private, the fact is that any information we post or list becomes public domain for others. Even things that we don’t post are subject to being used, like our Internet search history, online purchases, and our GPS location services.
That is how marketers figure out what we like, to sell us what they think we need; it’s how employers look us up during their hiring process, and it’s how maps predict where we’re going based on where we’ve been.
Even though the majority of us are aware of the lack of privacy, what we may not realize is how much our current political standing and leadership was influenced by this “data mining.” Data mining is the analysis and research of large amounts of data for patterns and behaviors.
Media outlets recently broke the story that our incumbent president’s campaign strategy was facilitated by information collected without users’ consent or knowledge. After a $15 million investment into Cambridge Analytica from Republican donor Robert Mercer and his political advisor, Stephen K. Bannon, the firm collected data on over 50 million Facebook profiles in an attempt to sway user’s votes in President Trump’s favor.
According to The New York Times, Facebook claims Cambridge used a third party researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, under false pretenses of academic research by creating an app that allowed data collection of users and their friends in 2013.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a statement describing the timeline of how this took place and committed to investigating further. According to his timeline, in 2015, it was discovered that Kogan shared the information from the app with Cambridge Analytica, which was against its policy. Facebook then suspended Kogan and required him to delete associated data, but after reports surfaced last month, Facebook learned that some information was kept.
Aside from the breach of information, the current scrutiny on Facebook is the violation of trust from users’ information being leaked.
To prevent this in the future, Facebook implemented measures to limit that magnitude of data access including requiring contracts, conducting audits, suspending rule breakers, and keeping users informed in the event they are compromised.
Facebook is currently working on a tool that will allow users to view and revoke permissions in a much simpler way.
While Zuckerberg is taking ownership of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, he hasn’t been able to answer why Facebook didn’t come forward before reports leaked. In an interview with CNN, Mark Zuckerberg was asked why Facebook didn’t come forward if users had a right to know, but he answered by walking through the timeline of events.
The bottom line is that we can’t control what happens to our information once it leaves us, and rest assured this recent scandal will not stop other political campaigns and entities to continue to use our information, perhaps in more cautious ways.
We are living in a time that requires us to be aware and intentional of everything we do and what we choose to share. Even the most seemingly harmless game or quiz—like Candy Crush or Which Disney Character Are You? could be collecting your data for their own personal agendas.
Be cautious. Be intentional. And most importantly, stay informed.