When Facebook first launched, it was intended to be a directory for college students. It was simple yet fun; people made up groups like “All my friends are getting married” and “I’m just getting drunk” for others to join. There was a “poke mob” where a giant group of students would all collectively poke one person at the same time just for sh*ts and giggles and you could post pictures of spring breaks and parties. It had not morphed into the absurdity that it is today. That happened when they made Facebook open to the public in 2006 and everyone and their grandmother got an account.
Access to a literal world of people was especially fascinating to certain companies, specially Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British consulting firm that collects data to help in the political process of elections, among other things. CA was hired by the Trump campaign and in the process targeted 50 million Facebook, using tools that could identify and influence the personalities of American voters.
When news of his spread across the internet, Facebook played dumb, claiming they were just as much as a victim as their users, but a lot of people are not buying it. Following public backlash, the company has lost $70 billion in stock value in the last two weeks, as advertisers pulled out of the social platform and the hashtag #DeleteFacebook started trending.
What’s important is how CA got access to so many Americans: they created a game called “thisisyourdigitallife”, one of many popular personality quizzes Facebook offers, and waited for a user to take it. Once they did, said user gave permission to the app for it to access their information, as well as their friend’s profiles and information. Over 270,000 people took the quiz, which gave CA access to millions and millions Americans.
Politics aside, this is a very messy and possibly expensive lesson on playing fast and loose with your privacy. Anytime you download a new app and it suggest that you “login with Facebook”, you take some trivial quiz, play a game, it’s all going to data mining companies such as CA. Facebook knew this and turned a blind eye, possibly because they had the same idea as CA for further down the road, especially after more news came out that Facebook is saving all Android calls and texts because why not, since they’re saving everything else? Do you like to shop on Facebook? Did you know that’s all targeted advertising and more ways to collect your data? It’s the main reason that your timeline is filled with nothing but Black Panther merchandise and art that you’ve been tempted to buy.
So, watch what you’re downloading, the tests you take, what access any and all apps require, and ask for and do not forget about third party apps that ask for access to your Facebook profile, even if it says it “won’t post anything without your permission.” Do you really need to know if you’d be a mage, knight or troll? Do you really need to know if you’re more of a Rick or Morty? It’s not worth a company stealing your data for malicious practices.
If you can’t bring yourself to delete your Facebook (no judgement), then please check your privacy settings more often than not. Don’t forget to logout to computers and devices you’re not normally on (like a school computer), but even if you do, you can logout from all devices through your Facebook settings. Be diligent about your privacy.