If you spend anytime online, you know that Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are two hot topics. And even though the Facebook scandal is taking up a lot of headlines lately, a lot of what you read may simply not be accurate. So, before you boycott Facebook and delete your account, find out what’s really going on in the Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal.
The popular belief is that an analytics company hacked millions of Facebook profiles and used this data to manipulate political events, such as Trump’s presidential election and UK’s Brexit referendum.
However, according to cognitive anthropologist, Chris Kavanagh, “there was no hack.” Instead, users actually gave Facebook permission to access their data. You might be scratching your head asking, “When?”
Anytime you gave a third party app your permission to access your data. In fact, it happens all the time: when you sign up to play a game, or when you log in to another site via your Facebook account, you grant these apps to obtain not only your data, but the data of your friends, too.
This came about thanks to app developer, Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge academic, who’s app started out with 270,000 profiles and gained access to 50 million Facebook profiles.
The problem arose when app developers took these 50 million profiles, and sold their data to a third party – a violation of Facebook’s data sharing policies.
What happened with all this data? It’s now widely accepted that it was used to influence voters and ultimately make Donald Trump president. How did Cambridge Analytica accomplish this? They say they delivered messages catered to a Facebook user’s specific profile and psychology.
However, as Kavanagh notes, “a lot of the claims being made about the effectiveness of such techniques is widely exaggerated”, citing Ted Cruz – a former Cambridge Analytic client – as an example, and his failed presidential campaign.