In 2013, Global Science Research (GSR) used Facebook to create a personality quiz that Facebook users could take to determine if they were an “extrovert or neurotic.” GSR collected and used psychological data from more than 50 million users and then sold it to Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica is a British political consulting firm that combines data mining, data brokerage and data analysis. When Cambridge got ahold of this data they then used it to create targeted political advertisement.
According to data scientist Christopher Wylie, every Facebook user that took the quiz has given Cambridge Analytica unknown access to their statuses, messages, friends and more. Cambridge Analytica then took the handful of users that took the quiz and accessed their Facebook friends, then their friends’ friends and so forth. Based on the results of the quiz and data, scientists dug through as much information as they could. Cambridge Analytica was able to strategically place users in different groups based on their demographics. They then used that information to influence these groups in a political manner for the 2016 presidential election. The data that was collected was used and assumed to determine which affiliation you would most likely associate with and would then target that affiliation with your liking.
So, at whom do we point the finger? Facebook or Cambridge Analytica?
Mark Zuckerberg takes responsibility for the incident although he claims that they were not aware that Cambridge Analytica had used apps to access the information. Zuckerberg has apologized and expressed his commitment to ensure that this never happens again. He said he plans to investigate every app that may be violating the users’ privacy.
Wylie takes responsibility as well. Wylie describes in interviews that it first started as an experiment and the results were better than expected and they completely disregarded the users’ privacy rights. Although he feels responsible, he expresses how this discovery is unique because the information is fast, relatively cheap and of high quality. Wylie left Cambridge Analytica and had plans to work with Facebook to use the new discovery in the right way.
Facebook decided they want no part, and want users to be comfortable and keep their promise that their information is safe.
I see it to be Facebook’s overall responsibility and Zuckerberg to be at fault. Facebook is in charge of security and privacy, and although it happened and they claim that they weren’t aware of what was being collected and used, they are still responsible to seek the appropriate solutions to these problems no matter how little or big they may seem. I believe that Facebook was very clear on what was happening years ago, and I believe users were too when election time rolled around and millions of political ads covered news feeds. Cambridge Analytica did what is similar to a child trespassing in a neighbor’s back yard to play on the new trampoline—they only had one path in mind and were not focused on others involved. It’s not innocent, but there also was not malicious intent. It’s Cambridge Analytica and other similar firms’ jobs to determine and collect data. However, Cambridge Analytica got very excited about the results of the experiment and their intentions were not for the destruction of privacy but rather they were on the brink of discovering how to understand America. Whether it’s a firm, business or a regular user, Facebook should be aware and responsible for whatever happens and affects users on Facebook, regardless if it’s used for the good or bad for users.