The Collegian

Recent Facebook data breaches should matter to you

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Recent Facebook data breaches should matter to you

Ian Lack 
Columnist

Ian Lack Columnist

Ian Lack Columnist

Ian Lack Columnist

Ian Lack

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In 2013, Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, was created.

In 2014, the firm began collecting personal information from Facebook users, with Facebook’s consent. Facebook made a profit from allowing Cambridge Analytica to access the data of about 87 million U.S. Facebook users. This data included information exchanged between users over Facebook’s Messenger app.

In March, the Guardian and the New York Times reported that millions of Facebook profiles were targeted with political advertisements during the 2016 presidential election, ads that were, in part, created by Cambridge Analytica. These reports were made possible by a whistleblower from Analytica, Christopher Wylie.

Later that month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)launched an investigation into whether or not Facebook violated a 2011 settlement when it allowed Cambridge Analytica to access Facebook data.

Facebook responded to the situation at the end of March, posting full-page ads in American and British newspapers saying they were sorry for breaching the trust of their users.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee April 11 after a five-hour testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee April 10.

Why does this all matter?

Because American people were psychologically targeted by ads on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election. Based off of what we know about the ads, they were geared toward both left and right political ideologies, targeting both Democrats and Republicans and everyone in between and outside.

No one will likely ever be able to truly know how those ads affected people. No one will be able to say for certain if those ads were effective in shaping people’s political opinions.

However, if we allow ad agencies and consulting groups like Cambridge Analytica to access our data this way, it could be detrimental to our election process. Suddenly, we could find ourselves in a world where everyone’s private information is being bought and sold in a political market. Elections go to the highest bidder.

This is one of the first times in history that social media information was turned against voting citizens. Everyone should be concerned.

I watched some of Zuckerberg’s testimony. To me, I think he is genuinely interested in restoring order to the social media platform he created in 2004.

To his credit, Zuckerberg, and his team at Facebook, appear to be completely transparent about the scandal, even providing a link for Facebook users to learn if they were targeted by political ads from Cambridge Analytica.

I used the link, signing in with my Facebook profile. Guess what I found?

Eleven of my friends used this app. Eleven of my friends were targeted by political ads tailored to their political interests.

Again, nobody knows how much they might have been influenced by these ads. I don’t even who these friends are. But this absolutely should stop. We can’t continue to allow social media platforms to trade our information for ads in elections that decide the future of our country.

I know 11 people who were targeted with their personal information. Were you?

You can find out by going to the help center on Facebook.com and searching “cambridge.”

Ian Lack is a reporter for the Collegian and can be reached at [email protected]

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