After watching the documentary ‘The Great Hack’ directed by Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, it definitely leaves you with an unnerving feeling. This Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal it’s quite eye-opening concerning our privacy in the media, our using technologies. However, regarding how unprotected the population is from these kinds of Big Tech companies that have proved to use warfare communications against people when they were trying to apply their own right of free voting, puts all kinds of democracies at risk. As unsettling as this may sound, we have to understand how did we got here. Starting with Facebook, as we know this corporation collects all kinds of data from us, and in return we get to use this platform for “free”. Additionally, Facebook collects this data in order to provide us a more personalized service. Nevertheless, they missed out the part where they make advertisements so personalized that equaled a personalized gun to our heads.
As Brittany Kaiser said in the documentary, Cambridge Analityca was targeting people with a tool that’s “used to be export-controlled by the British government so that would mean that the methodology was considered weapons-grade communications tactics”. Furthermore, Alexander Nix said that “it’s all the same methodology, all of the campaigns which Cambridge Analytica/SCL did for the developing world, it was all about practicing some new technology or trick. How to persuade people, how to suppress turnout, or how to increase turnout”.
The 2016 U.S. presidential elections case
Overall in the 2016 presidential elections in the U.S. they targeted and cataloged people as ‘persuadable’, this kind of people that didn’t quite have a political position regarding elections. The ammunition for this warfare gun was the 30 mil data retrieved from Facebook, plus the experience acquired from the practice obtained from their multiple experiments in the elections of various countries, such as: Trinidad and Tobago (2009), India (2010), Colombia (2011), Italy (2012)… Where Cambridge Analytica participated. In 2016 the company worked for Donald Trump as Alexander Nix admitted in the participation of said elections when he said: “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy”.
Being under a pointer without realizing
Sadly, the people cataloged as ‘persuadable’ were actually victims for several reasons. Firstly, for being under the pointer of the above-mentioned warfare communications when they were bombarded with fake news about Hillary Clinton, and ads in favor of Donald Trump. Secondly, for being withdrawn from their civil rights involving the right of voting free of ‘intimidation, coercion, threats, and other tactics to suppress a person’s ability to vote’, even though you can argue that Cambridge Analytica did neither intimidate nor coerced nobody into voting for Trump, you have to keep in mind that they were basically using tools with the grade of weapon in communication tactics against them, so inherently, they were under the influence of these weapons. Thirdly, as David Carroll mentions: “Kaiser describes needs for… self-monetizing personal data, property rights”, the fact that we can’t even control nor possess our personal data.
Data Rights are Human Rights
David Carrol started a legal battle against Cambridge Analytica asking for “full disclosure, where did they get our data, how did they process it, who did they share it with and what do we have a right to opt out” as he said in a TV interview. If you think of it, it’s actually a pretty rational thought to have, but why haven’t we asked ourselves this?
An interesting thing pointed out by Carrol was how we shield ourselves from the cold reality, like he said “the horrific lack of privacy and hopeless dependency on tech platforms ruining our democracies”. We prefer having no privacy in order to use these social platforms or technologies that basically got us addicted to them. Essentially, they got us eating from the palm of their hands and that’s why we don’t question these Big Tech corporations which we depend on. We need more people like Dave Carroll, sincere and brave enough not to only question them, but to fight them for our rights.
These corporations have 5.000 data points on millions of people, these could be you or me, your mom, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents… As uncomfortable as this may sound, each time they have more and more points of us, where we have 0 control over, and we don’t know how this will affect our or their future. Imagine, if people are being fired or not chosen to certain jobs now as a consequence of what they publish in their social media, picture this corporations opening a new platform were they publish all of our data and only the enterprises that pay good money for the data get access to it, so when you are applying for a job the responsible of the company does a background check of you in that platform and he decides not to hire you because they’ve found out information that they consider inappropriate (but could be very ordinary, like having a lazy day were you binge watching netflix, or the type of series that you like on HBO). “By the time my daughter is 18 she’ll have 70,000 data points defining her and currency she has no rights, no control over that at all” visualize what they can do with those 70.000 data points that Carroll’s daughter will have.
To conclude, we need to wake up and be more critical and start asking questions, and take action in this matter that is affecting us on so many levels, starting with our basic rights. As Kaiser said: “the best way to move forward is for people to really possess their data like their property”.