Blog / Facebook & CA – The Scandal That Is None

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Cambridge Analytica has obtained data from 50 million Facebook users via a third-party application and this data may have been used to individually target and influence people’s opinions on Brexit and the US election.

So what is the scandal?

Is it a)? Breach of Facebook Security

According to Facebook’s platform policy “for developers”, the third-party application involved should not have obtained most of this data: Besides the data from people who have agreed to the collection of their profile data, also personal data of their Facebook friends has been gathered. Even though these “friends’ data” is freely available to third-party applications, it may not be exploited – which is the case here.

Or is it b)? Manipulation of people with individualized content

It becomes obvious to everyone that individual data can actually be used to influence people to pretty much any kind of economic or political end.

Or is it c)? Facebook may have indirectly contributed to Trump and Brexit

The election of Trump and the vote for Brexit are seen be many people as disastrous and if Facebook data may have played a role in these outcomes, this just must be a scandal.

Marc Zuckerberg is now addressing and apologizing for the a)-part. However, this very fact has been known to the public for two years and four months now and nobody seemed to care in 2015. Also, the extent to which Facebook data had an impact on Trump’s election and the Brexit vote ( c) is rather obscure.

Therefore, the actual “scandal” must be b): The widespread realization that giving away personal data and having “nothing to hide” may well have negative consequences – individually and collectively.

Of course, this is not a scandal: The very fact that Big Data entails potential risks, particularly when those data are personalized, is well known and looking at the “Terms of Service” of Facebook, the consequences at hand are not surprising at all. Facebook’s business model is the collection of data, the creation of individual profiles, and the usage of these profiles for advertising and any other means that generates revenue.

The majority of people was just neither aware of the general Big Data risk nor of the specific power that Facebook data may have. So, this is a great time to reconsider your “I’ve got nothing to hide” beliefs and perhaps also to delete your Facebook account. I mean, in times where Instagram and WhatsApp are that popular, who needs Facebook anyway, right?