I am so excited to be writing this post, as a recent news story has come about that develops upon my blog post from November, ‘The Right to Privacy.’
As I’m sure you’ve already guessed from the title of this post, I will be talking about the recent Facebook data breach by company Cambridge Analytica. A really great round-up of what we know so far has been written by the New York Times and can be found here. To sum up briefly what has happened, however, the data breach occurred when users of a Facebook app had their profile information, and the profile information of their friends collected by a company known as Cambridge Analytica. This company were hired by Trump’s PR team and the information collected on users was then used to identify the personalities of U.S voters and subsequently influence them.
My dad always warned me to be careful and wary of the things I do on the internet and he (like he usually is) is so right. What does this mean for our right to privacy? Yes, we may have given our profile information to Facebook, but users of that app did not sign up for their information to be sold on to a company that could subsequently influence them.
In my right to privacy blog post I asked the question: ‘If states could use algorithms to determine what kind of voter someone was, surely they could then target ads to that person to maybe sway their view?’ Now I know the state hasn’t directly used an algorithm to influence voters, but this may be part of the reason why Trump was elected president seeing as Cambridge Analytica had involvement with Trump’s presidential race to office.
This kind of news story leads me to wonder if we really do have freedom of choice, or if all of our choices are always influenced in some way by the media. I’ve always thought at the back of my mind that we are all probably influenced more than we realise, but kind of put that attitude down to the conspiracy theorist side of my personality and decided to ignore it somewhat. This story is surely a wake-up call, for general internet users, in terms of how much of our personal data we give away. But more importantly, this is a wake up call for states to impose tighter online data protection laws.
Can we trust any of the websites we use to protect our personal information?