A small data harvesting company with big brains and bigger partisan funding collected private information regarding 50 million US facebook users. Then they illegally sold that data for use by the Trump campaign in 2016. It’s possible you’re on that list. It’s a list that includes your sexual orientation, your likely voting habits, your likely intelligence and how much you probably make. How did they do it? They created games that were fun and easy to play. For the Trump campaign, you had to be in the US to play. You gave up seemingly trivial information about yourself for a game shared with friends: for instance, maybe whether you like curly fries or mac & cheese. Because you know — how much could it hurt for anyone to know that you like curly fries over mac and cheese? And yet with just a few questions from a few different “games”, they compared your profile with your answers and pigeon-holed you as an atheist or an evangelist, a democrat or a republican, where you like to eat, possibly where you live…
I’m reminded of two fiction series: The Hollows Series by Kim Harrison and the Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling. In The Hollows Series, some humans find themselves giving what seems like inconsequential personal information to demons, only to realize that suddenly the demons truly own them. In the Harry Potter Series, Harry’s friend’s mom suggests that if you can’t find a creature’s head or heart, it’s probably evil.
Here is an organization that only exists in order to be a weapon of culture war, and we’re only now making the connection. Unfortunately, this is just one organization. Like roaches and rats, if there is one company doing this, it’s extremely likely that there are a lot of companies doing this. I haven’t got any evidence except for this current example of Cambridge Analytica as suggested by the Guardian. It amazes me that Mr. Zuckerberg may truly be so naive that he has given away our privacy to companies that make seemingly inconsequential games shared for our “amusement” on facebook and twitter that have considerably more dire consequences for citizens of the US. It’s likely similar gambits have occurred in election cycles for the last decade, and not just inside the US.
Wait it gets worse? Probably. The information from groups like Cambridge Analytica are very likely available on the dark web for a price, and there are people with enough money to buy an election, steering us into believing what we see in the paid ads on our facebook and twitter feeds.
What can you do?
- Stop playing those amusement games on facebook. You’re giving away your information to people you don’t know for reasons that are not clear to us.
- Let those who represent you know you want better privacy laws that protect us from people who steal our information without explaining what they’re going to do with it in clear, plain language
- Don’t friend anyone until you’ve actually met them in person and recognize them as a real person, because some of the “friends” you may see on facebook are plants. They’re not real people. They’re there to find out who your friends are, what you like and what your tendencies are for reasons you can’t possibly fathom.
- Understand the privacy settings on facebook and twitter. Read the rules of the game and you’ll play better.