With the scandal engulfing Cambridge Analytica and Facebook becoming impossible for the social media giant to ignore, and Mark Zuckerberg looking determined to do just that, is this a scandal too far for us loyal Facebook users?
Cambridge Analytica used an online personality quiz to collect data of up to 50 million profiles. This data was then used to serve these individuals with highly personalised adverts to sway political results in their clients’ favour.
But the scandal goes much deeper than the little known political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica. According to one Facebook insider, Sandy Parakilas, data harvesting of this kind was routine. Once Head of Data Protection at Facebook, Parakilas is said to have warned Facebook executives of such data breaches but was reportedly discouraged to investigate further, painting a picture of Facebook as an accomplice, as opposed to the victim.
The scandal comes after a recent spate of privacy breaches, tax avoidance exposes, and the widely reported use of the platform by Russian hacks to manipulate several election campaigns both in the UK and US. Despite all the bad press, Facebook has managed to cling on to the top social media spot, but the Cambridge Analytica scandal is undoubtedly the biggest, and most sinister.
What’s most scary about the scandal is it shows the sheer amount of data companies can harvest from our Facebook profiles. Through similar techniques companies could determine religious affiliation, cigarette and drug use. It was even possible to deduce whether someone’s parents were divorced. Creepy or what?
Some of us have been threatening to leave Facebook for years, many deleting their profiles for weeks and months at a time, only to inevitably reactivate their accounts with their tale between their legs. The youth, sick of being bombarded with posts from their Granny, have shunned it for Snapchat and Instagram while others have decreased their use because of too much advertising – something Facebook is trying to claw back with its recent algorithm change.
How Mark Zuckerberg deals with this scandal in the coming days will be crucial but one thing is for sure: it’s hard to see how Facebook can come out of this without a major knock to its reputation. But whether this is finally enough to make us walk away, only time will tell.