Unpacking The Facebook Drama + What It Means For Twenty-Something’s
Early this morning (New Zealand time) Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, sat and testified before the U.S Congress about his company’s privacy policies – or lack thereof – and it’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica sh*tstorm. A lot of you have asked me to actually explain what happened, so I’ll start there.
In 2014, a guy called Aleksander Kogan created an app which 270,000 Facebook users installed. Through this app he was able to access the data of 87 million people. Now, I know this part already sounds like a red flag because how come only 270,000 users installed the app but 87 million users information was made available as a result? And that’s because it is a red flag. There are quite a few of them, so I’ll just keep going.
Anyway, Kogan gave that data (THE PRIVATE INFORMATION OF 87 MILLION PEOPLE) to the Trump-affiliated political data firm Cambridge Analytica to use in the preparation and execution of Trump’s presidency campaign. Without telling the users and without telling Zuckerberg.
Fast-forward to today, Zuckerberg has swapped his notoriously boring uniform of a navy hoodie and jeans for a suit and tie, and is finally sharing his – equally uncomfortable – side of the story. Zuckerberg said that originally he had no idea about the information exchange, but when he did find out he asked Kogan and Cambridge Analytica to seize operations and delete the data immediately. They agreed and deleted it. Except Zuckerberg never actually checked, or as he put it at Congress this morning, “audited if the information was deleted”, he just “took their word for it”. Do you want to take a wild guess as to whether Cambridge Analytica deleted the information?
To me this isn’t just a massive data privacy scandal, it opens up a much bigger conversation about the way our most personal information, our messages and photos, are used without our knowledge. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, made reference to this when she said in an interview last week that if you and a friend are talking privately on Facebook Messenger about your shared love of, say chocolate, and the next day your timeline is scattered with advertisements from various chocolate brands and baking shows, that is no coincidence. So then the question becomes, what if you and that friend weren’t talking about something as harmless as chocolate?
And what’s worse is that this isn’t an issue that can simply be solved by us deciding to boycott Facebook and delete our accounts. Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, and so that’s why I feel so angry. Because essentially we are being made to weigh up the ease in which we communicate and connect with the people we love, with our moral compass and what we know to be a huge violation of our privacy.
It’s a decision twenty-something’s shouldn’t have to make, and I have no idea where we go from here but I do know this is only the tip of the iceberg.