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Facebook Leak of Shame- The Question is will you deactivate your Facebook account or not?

By Nishtha Gandhi

Updated - Oct. 25, 2019 5 min read

 

Facebook and consequently Mark Zuckerberg have faced a backlash after the revelation that Cambridge Analytica has used the breached data of about 50 million Facebook users to help politicians in their election campaigns. The data has allegedly been used to help Donald Trump in 2016 elections and the pro-Brexit supporters. Cambridge Analytica is a British Political Consulting firm that offers its expertise of combining data with Behavourial Science to private entities, businesses, and Government looking to misuse this data to influence and change target audience behavior. 

 

Like we would hate it if our potential employer or recruiter to judge us on the basis of our social media profiles, in the same way, this breach of privacy to use one's psychographic profile to change their political views is not something we foresaw. A company that is in possession of millions of psychographic profiles can strike deals with banks, insurance companies, advertisers, security agencies, private detectives and even with divorce lawyers to make sure that decisions, human minds, and views are molded the way they want and in ways, you won't like. 

 

Since we all know now, that data from a website like Facebook can also be stolen and used against us, the trust we've developed in the internet space has largely taken a hit after this breach of privacy. So much so, that the value of Mark Zuckerberg's 16 percent Facebook stake dropped by Rs 36,000 crores in just a day’s NYSE trading. 

 

HOW IT HAPPENED: 

In 2014, dozens of American were asked to take a quiz On Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform, where people were paid to perform microtasks, users were paid $1 or $2 to answer some questions about their personality and turn over their Facebook data and that of all of their friends. When these people realized that by doing this Amazon was violating its own terms and conditions, they grew suspicious. What was really happening was that this was a research conducted by 'Aleksander Kogan", a Cambridge University psychology lecturer who was being funded by Cambridge Analytica to gather as much Facebook data on as many Americans as possible in a number of key U.S. states. This happened through Kogan's app called "thisisyourdigitallife" that offered personality predictions to people. More than 270,000 people downloaded this app. To predict your personality, this app needed access to your FB profile data and public information which was further sold to CA by Kogan. CA also got funding from US billionaire Robert Mercer who served as the chief strategist to Trump administration in the first seven months. 

 

By decoding the personality of every single adult in the United States America, they just now revealed that this research conducted was used to help Trump win elections by dividing the population into segments, micro-targeting the right voters by using emotionally-altered under the radar ads to influence our minds into believing something we did not.  

 

CONSEQUENCES: 

1. Facebook has lost 80 billion dollars in stock market value.

 

2. Governments on both sides of the Atlantic have opened investigations, and

 

3. A social movement is calling on users to #DeleteFacebook.

 

One of the co-founders and data analysts at Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie is the one who leaked and shared the evidence that CA has been harvesting data from 50 million Facebook profiles. After blowing a whistle on CA's unethical activities, he also informed that Facebook suspended his account after this act and claimed that Facebook has known this for over two years. 

 

According to Facebook, this isn't a data breach, because people who downloaded the app and took the personality test did that on their own account and provided their information voluntarily. 

 

The Question now is whether you should #DeleteFacebook or not?

After a social movement was called out to #DeleteFacebook and a breach of trust was carried out, what do you think you are supposed to do ?

 

This data breach has helped Social Media regulators to voice their opinions strongly. Because it's not only the people who downloaded the app but also their Facebook friends who are now a part of this unknowingly.

 

Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton has also been urging users to #DeleteFacebook after such a big breach through the use of Twitter and other media channels. Not only Brian Acton but Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk have also become a part of this debate, urging users to exit Facebook by deleting their accounts, business pages and more. 

 

Although the #DeleteFacebook campaign on Twitter has been shared by 400,000 people, statistics show that surprisingly there was a dip in Facebook downloads immediately after the leak, but after that, it has increased more than ever before.

 

It is also harder to delete facebook because many small businesses do not have the budget to shift from pages to websites. Other reasons for why people using FB haven't dipped is because the psychological-boost model they play on. There' a psychological dependence that keeps us hooked on despite knowing how easy it is for our data to be used to influence our psychology. This is a real episode of Black Mirror in play. 

 

Shifting to Instagram for photo-sharing and Whatsapp for conversations will also not help because they are also owned by Facebook now.

 

How has it affected India?

It has been claimed that Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL Group- are also in talks with a large opposition party for the upcoming 2019 elections to help them win. The name of the party and the members involved in this deal are yet to be confirmed but according to Wylie, he said he will soon come up with evidence on the involvement of an Indian party with CA for the upcoming elections. 

 

The CA Website only has a mention of a single Indian Project but what Wylie leaked after getting requests from journalists all over the country shows that the consultancy has offices all over the country : Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cuttack, Ghaziabad, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kolkata, Patna, and Pune and has worked on about 8 projects since 2003.

 

 

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