The massive Facebook leak again brings the question of data safety to the fore. Is it possible to assume that they’ll do the right thing, or is that naive?
While it seems the worst of our safety fears are quickly becoming realised, as we’re realising that paranoia is the only way to successful way to traverse the virtual slope.
For those who have missed the formative details of the Cambridge Analytica issue, the details are thus: 50,000,000 (the rough equivalent of South Korea) profiles were legally pinched by a Facebook employee who passed them onto the company that ran the election for Donald Trump. With the data, Cambridge Analytica was able to cobble together an intricate database of voter profiles.
NEW: Democrats on House Intelligence Committee invite former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie to testify for their continuing Russia investigation on allegation the data analytics firm misused millions of Facebook users’ personal information. https://t.co/fvFVINGqgW pic.twitter.com/qbW8WUiQbn
— ABC News (@ABC) March 19, 2018
First things first. The employee in question, Aleksandr Kogan, is still in the employ of Facebook, albeit suspended. However, wrongdoing is not clear-cut. Facebook said in a statement that Kogan “gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels” but “did not subsequently abide by our rules” because he passed the information on to third parties. Kogan maintains that he did nothing illegal and had a “close working relationship” with Facebook.
Christopher Wylie, who worked with Kogan to obtain the data, told the Observer: “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.”
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) March 19, 2018
Whether this swung the election in any meaningful way, is irrelevant. What we officially know, is nothing. We’re now subject to the murky whims of suspicion. We can only assume that our private information is being passed around the party, even if that party is solely being held at Facebook HQ.
In this particular instance, there is a way for your average user to check who currently has their fingers in your electronic honeypot. In the Cambridge Analytica case, Kogan created a personality profile app and started harvesting data from users, disclosing to users (in fine print) that he was collecting information for academic purposes.
So, it’s probably best to remain extremely militant regarding which apps have access to your personal data. That being said, it really only represents the paracetamol in treating the headache, not curing it. To that end, Esquire has speculated that cutting off the head entirely would render our lives back to normal, looking to wrest back our digital selves from tentacles of the The Big Four. In their words: “…these behemoths enjoy unfettered economic domination and hoard riches on a scale not seen since the monopolies of the gilded age. The only logical conclusion? We must bust up big tech.”
CNBC believes that Facebook is on its last legs.
Not sure that will come to pass. Unplugging ourselves from the matrix will leave us with a reality we’re not particularly ready for. Perhaps the way out is to take the headlines as gospel, as an example of what they’re free/willing or able to do. Just assume that the stories of Facebook targeting teens in ads or editing the emotional landscape as they see fit are not only true, but extremely possible for yourself personally. Maybe we can’t trust Facebook, but we can always trust Facebook to be Facebook.
Perhaps the only true method of security is limiting the value we hold in it, progress motivated by the scorched earth policy. Burn everything of merit in your profile, purge it all, so if your data becomes completely worthless, and in turn, not worth stealing.
Just a thought.