Thanks to the zealous inquiries of Attorney General Mark Herring, we have learned that 7,100 Virginians downloaded a third-party app that yielded some 1.7 million of their Virginia Facebook friends to a contractor working for data harvesting firm, Cambridge Analytica, which had been hired by the Trump campaign.
“While we continue to await a fuller explanation about this incident from Facebook and its leadership, an important first step is getting our arms around the scale of the exposure,” said Attorney General Herring in a press release. “The fact that one in five Virginians may have had their personal information shared without permission is extremely troubling.”
The source of the breach was a Facebook quiz app, called ThisIsYourDigitalLife, explains the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The third-party research app collected information not only on Facebook users who approved it but also their friends. Herring collected the data from Facebook as part of a group of 37 state attorneys general who formally wrote the company asking for answers to questions about the Cambridge Analytica incident.
Bacon’s bottom line: Waaah! What else did people think Facebook was doing with all the data? Using it only to micro-target banner ads? C’mon. Nothing is free. If you’re not being charged cash for digital media, you’re giving away your data. How else did Facebook and Alphabet (owner of Google) become two of the most highest-valued public companies in the world? The only reason the incident has become an issue is that a firm working for Republicans were caught using the data. There were no histrionics when the Obama campaign asked followers to share data about their friends — to the contrary, the architects of Obama’s social media strategy were hailed as brilliant at the time!
Hair-splitters argue that the two cases were different. In the Obama campaign, people knew they were sharing the names of their friends. In the Cambridge Analytica incident, people were playing a “This Is Your Digital Life” quiz and didn’t know their data was being harvested. However, in neither case did the “friends” of those sharing their data have any knowledge or say-so about their use of their data. Thus, the hair splitters’ distinction is meaningful for the 0.5% of the people who shared their data but not the other 99.5% whose data was being mined without their knowledge or permission.
Let’s face it, the digital realm has become the new battleground of America’s larger culture war, and everything anyone says about Facebook, Google search algorithms, Twitter posting policies, and a dozen related issues must be viewed through the prism of our polarized politics. Nothing escapes the culture wars — nothing. There is no corner of our society you can hide in to avoid it. We seem to be experiencing a creeping “democratic totalitarianism” – totalitarian not in the Hitler or Stalin sense of an all-powerful police state, but totalitarian in the sense that every sphere of our society and culture is being dragged into the political realm and that we’re all subject to the capricious whims of the cyber-mob.
Herring did proffer one good piece of advice: “Review [your] privacy settings and make sure they understand just what [you] may be sharing with Facebook and other social media platforms.” Here’s my advice: Understand the motives of everyone pontificating about data privacy and social media. There’s almost always a political angle.There are currently no comments highlighted.