Privacy protection is fundamental to a free and open society. Even Mark Zuckerberg may have gotten a whiff of what privacy is all about when he was asked by Senator Dick Durbin if he would like to disclose which hotel he stayed in last night. Zuckerberg said “hhm no” to protect his own privacy.
Protecting the privacy of 2.2 billion Facebook users was the subject of a 5 hour long grilling of the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, by the US Congress.
A year ago, I wrote a post about Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting of Facebook data. A year later and we finally learn the extent of the misuse of 87 million Facebook’s user data. The extracted data included names, phone numbers, mail and email addresses, political and religious affiliations, and other interests. This personal information was subsequently used to target voters and sway public opinion.
It appears that personal data harvested from Facebook was used to manipulate voters first in June 2016 during the British EU referendum and then 5 months later during the US presidential election. Cambridge Analytica claimed that it had 4,000 – 5,000 data points on every US individual.
The YouTube video “Big Data and Psychographics in the electoral process” explains the psychometric profiling process.
Facebook did not notify the users that were caught up in the Cambridge Analytica debacle even though Facebook learnt about it in 2015. Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are now facing their first class action for allegedly having misused the personal data of more than 71 million people to develop “political propaganda campaigns” in the UK and the US.
Cambridge Analytica was initially bragging about its involvement in the success of the trump campaign.
However, later this footage and media releases disappeared from the Internet and Cambridge Analytica kept a low profile.
While giving testimony at the US Congress, Zuckerberg acknowledged that he and Facebook made mistakes and that privacy protection is fundamental. He stated that Facebook will comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and he was even open to discuss similar regulation for the US market.
This is quite a shift in tone. US commentators initially dismissed the GDPR as a piece of European protectionism. Now The New York Times is calling for similar rules in its editorial pages.
It appears that even Facebook is starting to bow to the pressure of European privacy protection.
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