Facebook is the target of several critics. The personal data of millions of social network users was collected by Cambridge Analytica and used for political purposes. Here’s what you need to know to understand this scandal.
In summary, Cambridge Analytica obtained data from Facebook users, without permission, to build a computer program to predict and influence the choice of US voters . The case was unveiled last Saturday by the New York Times and The Observer, a sister publication of The Guardian newspaper in London.
What is Cambridge Analytica?
It is a British company specialized in psychographic profiling. The company retrieves data from social networks to try to predict electoral behavior.
Its services are therefore used by teams of political organizations and electoral campaigns to refine their targeting for the polls. It helps political parties to identify those portions of the population that would benefit from efforts to convince them to vote for them.
Cambridge Analytica has been known for its work with Donald Trump’s team in the 2016 presidential election. The company has also worked with other Republican candidates, such as Ted Cruz or Ben Carson.
How did they manage to collect the data?
The data at the heart of the dispute was provided by researcher Aleksandr Kogan of the University of Cambridge. In 2015, he used the application This is your digital life, which drew a psychological portrait of a Facebook user after analyzing his personal data entered in a questionnaire.
However, the app also collected data on the Facebook friends of the users who were performing the test. Thus, if only 270,000 people participated in the test, data from more than 50 million people were also collected.
The researcher then gave this information to Cambridge Analytica for analysis. The latter then used them to refine his expertise in political marketing.
What are they accused of?
Cambridge Analytica used data that was taken without the permission of Facebook users. It would violate the conditions of use of the social network.
In addition, users who agreed to give their personal information to the researcher were told that this data was collected for scientific purposes. However, they happen to have been passed on to Cambridge Analytica for use for political purposes.
Who is Christopher Wilye?
It’s the whistleblower at the heart of this story . A Canadian of origin, he is the co-founder of Cambridge Analytica.
In an article in The New York Times and The Observer, he says he was involved in developing the scheme with researchers at the University of Cambridge to obtain data to target voters with personalized political ads.
It is the victory of Donald Trump that would have pushed him to question the practices of his company. “[It] really made me think about the effect that Cambridge Analytica had,” he said on CBC.
According to him, Cambridge Analytica’s practices are “extremely immoral,” but he believes that Facebook must also assume its share of responsibility.
What should be removed?
“One thing to remember is that Facebook is not a public service. [The social network] is not in its mission to look after the good of society, “says the director of operations Crypto.Quebec, Genevieve Lajeunesse.
Nor should one think that personal information is worthless, even if an individual is in a pool of several million people, she adds. “Yes, we are interesting for third parties, even if we feel like nobody.”
There are 50 million people in this database who thought they were of no interest to anyone.
Geneviève Lajeunesse, Director of Operations at Crypto.Québec
She advises users to take a look in the privacy settings of their Facebook account and restrict them to curb attempts to collect personal data.