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Analytica Apocalyptica

It’s here. And it’s begun.

The world is going crazy about the Cambridge Analytica undercover videos and Facebook’s data breach. And I find myself thinking, “Seriously? This surprises you people?”

I’ve been saying for years that our data is being analysed and that we’re being fed narratives that are brainwashing us. I hate quoting myself, but I find myself having to for this topic:

If you’re thinking, “Nah, that’s not possible. There’s no way all of our data is being analysed.”, you’re wrong of course. It very much is, has been for a long time, and there’s nothing you can do about it!

That’s from the March 2012 issue of Digit, and people in Team Digit have been saying the same for a lot longer – ever since social media took off. Which is what brings me back to my incredulity at people being shocked that companies like Cambridge Analytica exist.

Granted, having your CEO talk about Ukrainian call girls being used for entrapping ministers is something no company wants to be caught doing, but are we really so gullible so as to think that it doesn’t happen? Especially when it comes to politics, and gaining power, do we honestly believe that such tactics weren’t being used for a heck of a lot longer than technology has been around?

Sure, technology makes it a lot easier to, say, secretly record someone, but then as we saw with Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, that’s a double-edged sword. The reason you love your chosen social networking site is the same reason why it’s vulnerable to attack – because it knows so much about you, it’s able to find the things you like, but then again, your data can be used against you as well.

Facebook was obviously in the line of fire. It is after all expected to babysit every American (or world citizen) who is too dumb or lazy to adjust privacy settings and not give access to third-party apps. In fact, it’s the use of Facebook data that has blown this story out of proportion. If it was 50 million people’s credit card data being stolen there’d probably be less made of it.

I mean, seriously, look at the biggest breaches of the past decade. Yahoo! Had 3 billion users’ data compromised in 2013, no one batted an eyelid. Adult Friend Finder had usernames, passwords and email addresses of over 400 million users hacked in 2015 (who knows how many people were blackmailed using that), 145 million eBay users in 2014, Equifax had 140+ million people’s very personal data hacked (birthdate, driver’s licence number, social security number, addresses, etc.), and yet none of those raised as big a storm as this.

Remember me?

The problem is, it was Facebook, and everyone’s on Facebook, thus the obvious reaction. A #DeleteFacebook campaign started on Twitter – like that was a surprise! What was a surprise was that Elon Musk basically deleted Tesla’s and SpaceX’s Facebook pages on a dare. There’s no love lost between Zuckerberg and Musk, and so it was expected that Musk would pipe up on this Cambridge Analytica (CA) matter. Still, when another Twitter user dared him to delete SpaceX’s and Tesla’s pages before preaching, he did exactly that, leaving millions of fans on Facebook without any future information on the platform about his ventures. He was called a legend for doing so, and while we agree he certainly is a legend, we think he’s overreacting a tad. What’s next? Refusing to sell Tesla cars to anyone with a Facebook account?

Even in India, Twitter users are trying to trend #DeleteFacebook. But what will that do? Give more power to Twitter, and make them the target of such data breaches in the future?

No matter what we do, we’re going to do it online, and it’s too late to bring back the good old days where the anonymity of the internet was valued and cherished. Sure, the trolls might love anonymity, but as a society, we’ve moved to a world where everyone wants the spotlight, not privacy. You cannot proudly use your name and details online and then complain about people using that information to profile you… that’s like walking nude on to a beach and then demanding no one look at you!

Robert Sovereign-Smith