Privacy and protection have increasingly become central to the discussion on the ambiguities of the internet.
And amidst this prolonged debate on, Facebook data security came an incident that has shocked us all.
Social Media Involvement
Picture Credit: CNBC
• The Senior Executives, including the CEO, of a British data mining firm, Cambridge Analytica, were caught on camera admitting that they could use the sex workers, bribes, etc. for gaining votes for purposes they supported.
• Academic Aleksandr Kogan’s company created an app (2014) that paid people to take psychological tests on Facebook and collected data from millions of people’s Facebook profiles. This data was shared with Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, apologising.
Picture credit: Indian Express
- Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said he had asked all companies to not use Kogan’s app and the data received from it.
- The co-founder of the firm revealed that it used the data collected illegally from millions of Facebook profiles to make psychographic accounts of people. These were then used in the two major campaigns that the firm is said to have supported, the U.S. Presidential Elections of 2016 and the Brexit Vote. Pro-Trump material was extensively disseminated through this platform in order to influence mass opinion in Trump’s favour. (Also read about Trump’s ex-Chief Strategist’s comment on the matter)
• Meanwhile Cambridge Analytica has suspended it’s CEO, Alexander Nix.
However, the fact that this incident grabbed worldwide attention does not make it an isolated oddity.
HOW IS OUR DATA BEING USED EVERYDAY?
Picture credit: McKinsey
• Social media has become a ground for extensive data mining for business firms and political groups alike.
• Business firms particularly are dedicating specialised teams for extracting relevant data from social media accounts.
• This gives them first hand information with regard to market trends, requirements, people’s product grievances etc.
• This information is analysed by product development teams and customer service teams of companies and helps them increase their efficiency. This data also helps in price fixation of products according to market demand. This is also utilised for directing specific ads to specific users on the internet.
• Such data is also utilised by political pollsters and campaigners for ideological propaganda. (Also read about how Obama used similar ways in 2012)
Data leakages seem to have become the new norm. Today, our lives are lived on the internet, be it on social media or on various websites.
The Cambridge Analytica case is proving how our personal information is not safe, given the fact that we share almost all of our lives, from what we are eating, to where we are going and to which brands we prefer.
We were granted the Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right only in August 2017 and while India does have certain relevant laws on data security ( Such as the Information Technology Act, 2000), we don’t have any law specifically devoted for ensuring data protection and privacy.
And even if we did, we see that laws are barely sufficient.
Hence it is essential that we, as users, become more informed and vigilant. We should ceratinly make the most of the scientific advancements, but certain points that we must all keep in mind while doing so are:
• Use different passwords on different sites. Never re-use your main email id password.
• Shop online only on secure and recognised websites and do not store card details on websites. Do not assume that the banks will pay you back in case things go wrong.
• Think twice before sharing any information on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
• Keep strong passwords on all sites and enable a two-step user verification system wherever possible.
• Use an efficient anti-virus and be careful when using open Wi-Fi. (However tempting it might be!)
We cannot prevent but can certainly regulate the amount of their involvement in our personal life!