[Issue 052] On Facebook: Questions that need answers
I have been caught up in the media frenzy around Facebook these past few days, and I have questions that need answers.
But first... For anyone who isn't up to speed yet, here's what you need to know:
- New York Times and the Guardian published articles about a company named Cambridge Analytica harvesting data from up to 50 million Facebook users back in 2015. Much of the information reported was obtained from a whistleblower named Christopher Wylie, who helped form the company.
- The data was obtained by paying over 250,000 people to take personality tests in exchange for access to their profile data for research purposes (which was allowed). However Wylie says they also captured the profile data of those individuals' friends and then sold that data.
- The fury is primarily fueled by statements that this data was used to create voter-profiling techniques that influenced Brexit and 2016 US election voters.
- Facebook claims that this is not a data breach because, while the data was used against policy, the data that was actually obtained legally.
- Zuckerberg released a statement today in response to everything. Axios has a useful recap if you're interested.
My first question is probably going to make me pretty unpopular... Are we really angry at Facebook, or has it simply become the new company that everyone loves to hate?
Don't get me wrong. I get that this is a big deal. Data privacy concerns. Limited regulation of the tech sector. Russian interference in elections. All BIG deals.
But in the midst of very shocking political outcomes over the past two years, I just have to ask: Has Facebook just become a scapegoat for a bigger problem?
Does making Facebook an example actually solve the issues we are currently faced with? (I legit don't know, hence the question.)
For those who are calling for #DeleteFacebook, Do you really believe that is a productive solution? (Also, some have made the point that this choice is a privilege.)
Why does it feel like we were—and still are—less irate about the regular data breaches by companies that lose far more sensitive consumer data? (HELLO EQUIFAX. WHERE YOU AT?)
What is the outcome we are hoping for from this situation?
And last but not least, When will it actually be spring? This weather is becoming more depressing than political news.
If you have any thoughts on any of my questions above, hit reply or send me a tweet! I want to hear your perspective.
In the meantime I'll continue poring through the many articles I have saved on the topic so I can figure out some of the answers to my own questions.
Unrelated to anything in this newsletter, but a perfect description of me:
Source: New Yorker Instagram. A cartoon by Kaamran Hafeez.
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“This story is more evidence that the online political advertising market is essentially the Wild West. Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it’s clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency.”
- Mark Warner, Senator (D-VA)