Is Digital Security Really Being Enhanced Post Cambridge Analytica?
Fallout From Cambridge Analytic Data Usage
The conversation surrounding digital security is in the international spotlight following Cambridge Analytica filing for bankruptcy. Data and security experts have begun looking towards blockchain technology as a possible solution in providing additional security for consumers, medical patients, and those who perform professional work on the internet.
In December 2015, The Guardian was the first to uncover the ethical concerns associated with Cambridge Analytica and their ties with Facebook, when Cambridge was working on Senator Ted Cruz’s Presidential campaign:
“Documents seen by the Guardian have uncovered longstanding ethical and privacy issues about the way academics hoovered up personal data by accessing a vast set of US Facebook profiles, in order to build sophisticated models of users’ personalities without their knowledge.”
The report continues, “…Cruz has turned to Cambridge Analytica for its unparalleled offering of psychological data based on a treasure trove of Facebook “likes” allowing it to match individuals’ traits with existing voter datasets, such as who owned a gun.”
Cambridge Analytica claims they did not use data from Global Science Research (GSR), which gathered data for Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. A portion of a March 29th press release reads:
Cambridge Analytica did not use Facebook data from research company GSR on the 2016 presidential election. We provided polling, data analytics and digital marketing to the campaign as part of a collaborative effort under Brad Parscale, alongside the RNC and other vendors.
Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge Analytica details a different story. Wylie was with the company before leaving in late 2014, “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair,” he told the New York Times. “They want to fight a culture war in America; Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war,” he continued.
The Intercept detailed how Facebook’s practices failed to protect user data from firms like Cambridge Analytica, who in change used the information to launch targeted political messaging to those who were likely to be swayed by their messaging. From their report:
“Facebook appears not to have considered Global Science Research’s data collection to have been a serious ethical lapse. Joseph Chancellor, Kogan’s main collaborator on the SCL project and a former co-owner of Global Science Research, is now employed by Facebook Research. “The work that he did previously has no bearing on the work that he does at Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Intercept.”
Additional Data Firms Suspended
Facebook suspended two data firms in early April following the international outcry over privacy concerns. Michelle Castillo broke the story regarding the CubeYou suspension, accusing the firm of using personality quizzes to help marketers find likely customers, “…Upon being notified of CubeYou’s alleged violations, Facebook said it would suspend all CubeYou’s apps until a further audit could be completed.”
In March, Christopher Wylie claimed he helped found AggregateIQ (AIQ) while he worked for Cambridge Analytica. At the time of the Brexit referendum, Wylie claimed AIQ was operating as, “an internal department of Cambridge Analytica. It didn’t have a website and no contact number. The only public contact number was SCL’s website.”
AIQ maintains they do not have a link to Cambridge Analytica or SLC, yet Facebook suspended the company after an internal review:
“In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received (Facebook) user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate.”
Will Companies Now Put Data Privacy As A Priority?
Despite the public outcry for enhanced data privacy, various platforms have done little to change the manner in which they collect data. Twitter and other social media platforms have released updated terms of service to be more transparent about their practices. However, those do little to address the overall concern.
Social media platforms have yet to adopt an “Opt-In” instead of an “Opt-Out” strategy, which would allow users who don’t mind their data being shared to opt into the program. Currently, platforms hide their “opt-out” options deep within user settings, which require a measure of technical savvy to find.
A switch to blockchain technology would help secure privacy on social media and on the internet as a whole. RecordsKeeper has the goal of allowing users to create verifiable and immutable records of any type of data with encryption used to provide added security measures.
This type of technology would eliminate the need for third-party verification sources. Such technology is years away from being implemented into a social media platform; however, if integrated users would be aware of the movement of their data, enhancing safety and security online.
Blockchain innovation in combination with transparent business practices would allow users to feel safe when using social media and eliminate the unethical data market.