Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: The Backstory
News recently broke that Facebook sold masses of user information to a company called Cambridge Analytica. This information was gathered from Facebook users who had entered details about themselves into the social networking site whilst signing up for, and subsequently using, an account. Allegedly, this information was used by Cambridge Analytica to influence Donald Trump's election into the White House. It is believed that adverts were targeted towards certain demographics in order to sway their vote away from Hillary Clinton and towards Donald Trump.
First the Russians, Now Facebook
Over the past couple of months, the media has outlined two scandals involving the 2016 US presidential election. The first scandal involved Russian bots and stated that Trump was only able to win due to their influence, but now it seems they have changed their mind and Trump was only able to win the election due to Facebook/Cambridge Analytica interference. If I'm completely honest, it seems as though the media outlets are attempting to find any excuse for Trump's victory, refusing to look at the true reasons as to why he was elected. It appears that the media are out to discredit the president's victory, aligning his election into office with outside influence.
Now that the media has made it very clear that 'Trump only won the election due to Facebook's sale of masses of personal information', Zuckerberg's popularity has hit an all time low. He has become a scapegoat for the left and has even garnered infamy from the right. Although it has been obvious since day one that Facebook has been harvesting personal information from its users (you have to wilfully input it to sign up), it has taken this piece of news to force a lot of users down the path of account deletion. If these people had bothered to read the terms and conditions, they would most likely see that, upon sign up, they had agreed to allow Facebook to take and distribute personal information about themselves.
Don't get me wrong, I can see why this is an issue. With the ability to gather so much information, Zuckerberg is in a very powerful position. However, these people have already sold themselves, they have signed up! The only way to prevent your information from being abused is to not sign up in the first place. Although, those against Facebook are going to have to add a lot of other companies to their boycott list because (newsflash) Facebook isn't the only corporation that harvests and sells your personal data. Unfortunately for Facebook, they were the only company that was blamed for Trump's election into the White House.
What Did Cambridge Analytica Do Wrong?
As briefly mentioned above, Cambridge Analytica ran adverts that were specifically targeted towards users and aimed to sway their vote away from Clinton and towards Trump. If this is the complete truth, then I fail to see what Cambridge Analytica has done wrong. Isn't the entire concept of an election campaign to advertise to others why they should support your candidate and why your candidate is the best for the job?
Highlighting the Real Issue at Hand
If the media must blame someone in this situation, it has to be Facebook and ultimately Mark Zuckerberg. It was his company that harvested and sold the information. An act that isn't very ethically sound. Without access to Facebook's huge database of personal information, Cambridge Analytica would have had a much harder time targeting their adverts. In my opinion, the issue here isn't whether or not Cambridge Analytica attempted to promote a Trump victory, it's the fact that corporations such as Facebook have so much personal data stored about so many different people. This puts them, and Zuckerberg, in a very powerful position.
As highlighted above, Facebook isn't the only company that is doing this. Just look at their competitors: Twitter, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Pinterest, etc. All of these social networking sites require, and prompt, users to input personal details that are then stored and sold. The reason why Facebook (and all similar platforms) are free is because the social network itself isn't the product - you are! Your details are a commodity to these companies as well as your audience. The sheer number of people visiting social networking sites each day is the reason why they are all emblazoned with adverts.
Personally, I won't be deleting my Facebook profile, but I stand with those of you that do. I see Facebook as a useful tool for communication and I am happy to provide them a small number of personal details in return for their service. As long as you are mindful of what you are posting and submitting, you shouldn't be in too much danger. However, if you are posting every single detail of your life to social media, you are placing yourself in a position to be taken advantage of.
The Facebook Hate Bandwagon
As briefly mentioned, a lot of Facebook users are jumping ship. Accounts are being deleted and hashtags are trending on Twitter (how ironic). A lot of people want to see Zuckerberg fall, his link to the Cambridge Analytica scandal being the reason. It seems that all of this is just the bandwagon effect taking hold. If these people really cared that much about their personal data, they wouldn't have signed up for Facebook in the first place.
I think that the real issue is that a lot of people are now pinning Donald Trump's election on Facebook. I can understand why they would be upset that their desired candidate didn't make it into office, but putting Facebook's head on the chopping block will neither solve their issue or provide a reasonable explanation for it. However, maybe it is time these social networking sites faced a bit of backlash over their gathering and misuse of personal information.
Benjamin McQuaid (author) from England, United Kingdom on April 06, 2018:
Hello bradmasterOCcal, thank you for your comment.
You'll certainly be better off staying away from Facebook and sticking to HubPages. Facebook isn't the best place to find well-reasoned information, unlike here.
I am unfamiliar with the Obama Facebook story, if you could give me some detail or a link to an article, that would be great!
Brad on April 05, 2018:
Interesting article. I stopped using Facebook shortly after I got it many years ago.
Hubpages is the only social media that I use.
What about the story that is out about how Obama used Facebook before Cambria?