FB data breach impacts users



Opinion columnist Sam King takes a look at the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal that impacted Facebook users last week.

SAM KING, Opinion Columnist

Facebook is something I’ve written about many times. I prefer my media-based topics, and the largest social media platform is usually in the news.

However, they’re usually in the news for some kind of innovation or new experiment they’re trying. This week, they’ve been in the news for some very bad things.

The story goes like this: it was discovered last week that a company known as Cambridge Analytica had acquired the personal information of 50 million Facebook users. They then used this information to compile psych profiles of voters who were then targeted with ads that were designed to persuade them to vote a certain way.

This was used in both the 2016 election and the Brexit vote in the UK (New York Times).

Now, why is this bad? Well, 50 million people had their personal information used without their consent. The data was also acquired using unethical and possibly illegal means.

Additionally, the ads that were used could have significantly, and unfairly, impacted both the U.S. election and Brexit vote.

The data was acquired via an app that was made back in 2014. A group of 270,000 people consented to their data being used for academic purposes and a small payment; however, 270,000 is a very different number compared to 50 million.

The app was able to successfully branch out to the Facebook friends of those 270,000 and swipe their information without them knowing (Al Jazeera).

Facebook is at the front of this problem due to a few things.

One, Facebook failed to inform its users when it first learned about the breach. Two, Facebook denied that a breach ever occurred, as at the time the data was taken, app makers were allowed to take information from users’ friends.

There was also nothing at this time to stop Facebook from selling personal data to third parties.

This all makes for a big mess for Facebook. With concerns about Russian propaganda and fake news circulating throughout the social media giant, the Cambridge scandal only worsens this.

Oh, but it gets worse.

Facebook’s stock has taken a gigantic hit. It’s estimated that they’ve lost around 80 billion in market value (CNN). CNBC also estimated that Facebook’s stock could remain in a poor spot for an entire year.

I think it’s safe to say that this scandal is hurting them.

Now, allow me to explain what this all means and why this is a big deal, as this scandal could have some serious repercussions for millions of people.

Let me start with one of the biggest concerns over this scandal. I do not want to get into conspiracy theory thinking here, but it’s not ridiculous to think that other companies have harvested data from Facebook or other sites and sold it to people or used it for their own agenda.

The idea of one’s personal information being used like this is a scary thought.

Another major problem is the fact that this data was used to serve propaganda to citizens before a major election. This could have influenced the outcome of both elections, as well.

These methods are both unethical and possibly illegal. I try my best to stay away from politics, but this is an incredibly important topic.

It’s very clear that this data was used to push a specific ideology, and this push has directly undermined our democracy.

Modern day democracy, all undermined by a social media website? It sounds so small, yet it’s such a big deal.

These elections have affected hundreds of millions of people, and they might have been altered because of this data.

College student or not, this could affect all of us. In my personal opinion, I’m not usually bothered by websites collecting my data.

I know companies like Google keep my data that I provide to them. I normally don’t care either. However, this Facebook case is different for me.

Google keeps data to target ads that they think are relevant to me. Cambridge Analytica, on the other hand, kept this data to push an ideology and purposely influence some seriously impactful elections.

To me, that’s horrible. It’s bad on so many levels that I could write an entire article solely about that.

I really wish we weren’t in this situation, but here we are. All we can do now is wait and see what comes out of it.