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Has Facebook Made Indentured Servants out of
America’s Right to Privacy
During the 2012 Presidential Election, Obama’s campaign team was able to extract data from Facebook and use it to target their own Presidential campaign. Data mining and usage is not in of itself illegal as the owner of the information has an obligation to protect user’s privacy.
In 2014, Facebook demonstrated their willingness to use the platform to manipulate the moods and feelings of its users. For a week, over 700,000 users were without their knowledge intentionally shown positive or negative images resulting in mood manipulation.
Facebook as routinely offered researchers access to its big data under the premise of conducting academic research for the greater good. The goal was to understand just how social impacted its users and Facebook’s relationship with qualified researchers is what opened the gates to this latest scandal.
In 2014, researcher Alexsandr Kogan developed a personality quiz for Facebook that gave him access to the user information of over 270,000 Facebook accounts. The purpose of the quiz was to gather information that could then be used to profile users. This information was later given to Cambridge Analytica along with the full profile information of the friends of every person to take the quiz. The result was over 50 million users account information being handed over.
Cambridge Analytica was later hired by the Trump campaign along with other politicians around the world to handle their data. Cambridge used the Facebook data to profile potential voters and target them with political ads and in some cases blatant disinformation.
Cambridge Analytica executives were caught on camera by journalist admitting how they weaponized this data and distributed it to different political action groups. The source of this data was the Facebook breach initiated by Alexsandr Kogan through his quiz that revealed the profile information of 50 million users without their permission.
Upon the news breaking, Facebook stock lost $6 billion dollars in value in just one week with Mark Zuckerberg himself losing $6 billion in net worth. Calls from governments across the world to investigate the breach have been made with many coming from Europe which has some of the strictest privacy laws in place.
2014 Spring est. – Cambridge Analytica along with data scientist Alexsandr Kogan develop a Facebook personality quiz to obtain the data of participants. The intent was to develop targeted political ads on potential US voters.
2015 Fall est. - Facebook first became aware of the massive data breach according to leaked documents and made only limited efforts to recover the data and zero notifications to the affected users.
2016 August est. – Facebook issues the first notice regarding the data breach involving Cambridge Analytica. Rather than suspend their access, they sent a legal notice to delete the data they now knew they had.
2018 March 16 – As Facebook became aware that the New York Times and the Guardian were about to break the story of the leaked personal information of 50 million users they responded to media firms insisting that this story could not be considered a “breach” of data.
2018 March 16 – For the first time, Facebook suspends Cambridge Analytica access to its data.
2018 March 17 – Both the New York Times and Guardian broke the story referencing whistleblower Christopher Wylie who helped set up the quiz and data acquisition for Cambridge Analytica. Wylie revealed the goal was to target personalized political ads driven by the data received from Facebook.
2018 March 18– World leaders and governments began to react to the breach. US Senators called on Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress and the UK Information Commissioner’s Office began pursuing a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s office.
2018 March 19 – A secretly recorded video was revealed showing Cambridge executives bragging about their role in foreign elections and the use of spies to set up political opponents.
2018 March 20 – Another video was released showing executives boasting about their role in the Trump campaign and how Facebook data allowed them to target the messaging of the Trump campaign. Utilizing data would not be illegal for a campaign, but the question of how Cambridge Analtyica took the data is relevant. Cambridge chief executive Alexander Nix is suspended after the revelation of the video became public.
2018 March 21 – A massive sell-off in technology stocks like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter continues as many fear a backlash against social media. Facebook’s shares fell 9% and as of this date represents a loss of $60 billion.
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