Data Privacy, And Where It All Went Wrong


The rise of social media in the past decade has created a few ultra-large corporations in which unfathomable amounts of data flow through and are stored. Corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, to name a few, are the main keepers of most of the world’s data since most of the world uses those platforms. It has been brought to light by many sources that data can not only be stored but bought and manipulated. The name Cambridge Analytica rang very loudly over the past 3 years, due to evidence being brought forward that points to the British firm’s involvement in the US elections in 2016, and later found to have meddled in various other countries across the world, creating dramatic shifts and divisions in the public opinion. This article highlights the main happenings of the scandal, and how we are entering an era where data is manipulated in ways never done before.

The issue of data privacy

There is a good chance that you have an account on the major social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and if you don’t, you saved yourself from having your data being swiped from right under your fingertips, at least on social media. Although your overall online data can be harvested and sold to firms like Cambridge Analytica where you are profiled and categorized, and the amount of data collected by such firms is enough for them to be able to predict your behavior based on your personality. It sounds scary, and you would be right to think so.

The scandal of Cambridge Analytica

The Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2016 sparked significant changes in the real world ranging from protests and riots to the rise of authoritarian governments worldwide. The Netflix documentary The Great Hack shows exactly what happened from an insider’s point of view when two Cambridge Analytica employees Christopher Wylie and Brittany Kaiser came forward in front of the UK parliament and stated all the facts of how the data firm was involved in meddling in the 2016 US elections. Of course, the firm’s CEO Alexander Nix refused to be interviewed for the documentary.

How data was manipulated in the 2016 US election

The main factor that enables the manipulation of data to create shifts in public opinion is the determination of users that are relatively neutral in their political views but can be persuaded to lean towards one side against the other. These users are what data experts call “Persuadables”. The data firm targets these users to monitor their online behavior and sends them personalized ads that entice them to vote against a certain candidate. That was what Cambridge Analytica did to help the Trump Campaign win over certain states that shift between being Democrat and Republican, called “swing states”.  The main point to derive from this is that data is now up for grabs and, as we now know, has been for a while without our knowledge.

The extent of the damage

After being brought in for questioning in front of Congress last March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will have end-to-end data encryption and made adjustments to its privacy policy, enhancing users’ data privacy. It still raises questions of Facebook’s credibility after such a scandal and how they have let all of it happen without the public’s knowledge. Moreover, it has caused chaos among people worldwide, feeding their fear and hate, causing riots and violence in the streets, not to mention a rise in authoritarian governments worldwide. What this means in terms of our privacy is that it is not always as it seems, for the ads that you see in your feed are likely to be tailored specially for your psychological group and the influencers that peddle those messages are part of the game.

Hope is not dead

We have entered an era when our online privacy is highly questionable and our beliefs can be turned against us, as we have seen in the years since the 2016 US election. Although bleak, the contents of this article merely illustrate that the internet is rapidly evolving and with this quick evolution came a rise in human rights violations. Despite the fact that major players such as Facebook have modified the way they handle data, the fact remains: the data was sold, and so was the privacy of millions. However, even though this article has shown nothing but the horrific ways in which data can be manipulated and how it shapes the public opinion, the situation is not completely hopeless; lawmakers and governments have the power to contain this issue and bring about change for the better, as done in the UK with Mr. Wylie and Ms. Kaiser, and in the US with Mr. Zuckerberg. The internet is one of humanity’s greatest achievements and if we want it to remain free and convenient, we must put it to good use, and use it to unite instead of dividing us. On that note, we at Business Motion are constantly up to date on the latest developments in media and the internet, and our integrity and work ethic are translated into our work on digital marketing campaigns and, of course, videos. So, contact us to create your patch of good online and onscreen!

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