By Rocky Fodali, Trending Writer
Modern-day Facebook is a hotbed of political discourse and controversy. Timelines are flooded with a bevy news stories, both real and fake. Regardless of the accuracy of the respective article, many believe what they read and often seek to share their own opinion. This can be done through the mere use of a like or share, but can also be displayed through the use of a comment or a classic, fiery rant. However, all of these reveal important information about the personality of the person involved. This includes information about political preference, information about key demographics of U.S. citizens, or information that was intended to be kept private.
Therefore, it is easy to see where the controversy between Facebook and the 2016 election came from. The personal data Facebook has can be invaluable to any campaign, revealing key habits and beliefs of large demographics. With access to such comprehensive data, politicians know who and what to focus their attention on. Now, there is nothing wrong with collecting information from a sample, but there is an issue when a survey is conducted without notice.
Prior to the 2016 presidential election, Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling company, paid to acquire the personal information of 50 million users from an outside researcher. This information was passed to key Republican figures Robert Mercer and Stephen Bannon in return for a large investment in the upstart company. There are several issues here. First, there is a breach of trust between Facebook and its users, as private information has been comprised. No users knew that revealing data of their own personalities was being bought and sold by unknown companies and politicians. Another issue is that Facebook may have not even known. An outside individual who was collecting the data for academic reasons leaked this information. Facebook failed its users by not protecting their voices. It allowed an “academic” source to come in, research the private opinions of 50 million users, and then sell them off for a profit. It speaks to the lengths politicians will go to get the upper hand in an election and the lengths people will go to make more money. The elite trample the everyday man, going behind his back to better himself.
Every parent teaches their child a necessary lesson before being able to use social media: be careful of what you say because once you say it, it is out there for everyone to see. This scandal gives legitimacy to this warning. More than just your friends will see your comments, likes, shares, and posts. Therefore, do be careful with what you say. Whether it be for more profit or power, your private information can and will be leaked.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 10th print edition.
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