The king of social media, Mark Zuckerberg, had a hearing before the Senate on April 10th regarding Facebook’s social media privacy and the use and abuse of data. His opening statement was as follows:
“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. And it was my mistake. And I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
So, what happened? Why is he apologizing? And most importantly, should Facebook users, including you, dear Vanier student, be worried?
On March 17th, The Observer, a British newspaper, published a story online about a scandal involving Facebook and a British “political consulting” company called Cambridge Analytica whose job is to use data mining, data analysis and ‘strategic communication’ (whatever that means) to gain votes in favor of the political parties who pay them. In other words, you pay them and they help you win an election. (VCSA office candidates; take note).
Based on the information received from a whistle-blower – a former employee of Cambridge Analytica – Facebook, being a large platform for advertisers, had allowed Cambridge Analytica to collect information about 50 million Americans by paying individuals 2-5$ to take a personality test (which also collected Facebook related information, such as likes and friends) which had then been used to predict and influence choice at the ballot box during the American presidential elections.
There is footage of Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, on BBC, officially dated March 18th, where he declares that the information received from Facebook had been useless. Ironically, later that same day, Channel 4 (another British News Channel), released a footage of undercover reporters asking questions about the services of CA from Alexander Nix’s right-hand man, the managing director of Cambridge Analytica, Mark Turnbull. Over this secretly filmed discussion, Turnbull goes over how you can manipulate voters by crafting unsourced propaganda, fake news, and extremist views and seeding them in the blood of social media like Facebook.
Here’s a quote from Nix, the CEO himself taken from the Channel 4 footage: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed”.
You can find the actual footage on Channel 4’s twitter page if you’re interested.
So, why is Facebook going to a hearing given that they have had such a passive role?
Currently, Facebook has access to data ranging from ads you’ve clicked on; events you’ve attended; articles you have read; the websites you visit; the kind of food you like; when you use your electronic devices (which can also help figure out the time you went to bed. Yeah, they probably know you check your phone before you go to bed) to your location, including but not limited to where you work/go to school; when you arrive there; when you leave, etc.
Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat and all the other companies giving us free apps with cute stickers, take from the rectangular black mirror we carry in our pockets all the information above using tracking software called “cookies” (sounds yummy).
Author’s remark: [I don’t remember it being like this when we had chat rooms and Yahoo Messenger.]
But it’s not all the information they gather with cookies that is the source of the problem. They also know who you hang out with (Facebook is really good with this one apparently), what kind of music you listen to on Spotify; what movies you like to watch on Netflix; Who’s your girlfriend/boyfriend, etc. All the type of info you very willingly hand to them.
The information above is then used to create ‘profiles’ with users which then they sell to advertisers … *Coughs*… which then they sell to those who are willing to pay for them.
Now… it would be a shame… if Mark were to give this to a company who would then show you “ads” about ‘crazy social justice warriors’ or ‘crazy Republican senators’… ads which could then accordingly “show you” how crazy left-wing or right-wing politicians are… And imagine if it were done right after you watch a funny video that spikes the dopamine levels in your brain which consequently makes you feel good and makes you more receptive to new information and therefore less likely to question what you just saw.
I wonder how they knew what kind of video you’d find funny.
Anyways, Speaking of getting Z U C C E D… my webcam light just turned on…
Oh, hi Mark!
Written by: Bardia Shahrestani