Facebook, ‘The Guardian’ and Cambridge Analytica

There’s very little doubt that the story of the week (year, decade even) concerns Facebook, the use made of data from their platform by Cambridge Analytica and the consequences of the resulting micro-targeting as used in an election, maybe even one near you.

The bald facts are that a Cambridge University academic devised a ‘psychological profiling quiz’ and quite legally placed it on FB. Everyone knows these quizzes – if you’re bored enough you might fall for doing one, but you probably never thought that there would be any consequences.

Who then did what exactly depends on who you believe, but the net result was that CA managed to get their hands on upwards of 50 million personality profiles by extrapolating the comparatively small number of people knowingly taking part in a quiz, through their FB friends who had no idea this was happening.

This data was then used (as is freely admitted by the Trump campaign) to send very specific messaging to US voters. And it is alleged to those voting in the EU Referendum in the UK.

Let’s leave the detail of who was contractually permitted to do what for a moment and consider whether it is right to use personal data harvested (via don’t let’s forget an unregulated source) without the owner’s permission in order to send micro-targeted ads to that person?

I would say not. Surely, we should be in control of our own data, as Doc Searls’ VRM concept has always had it? And we should be able to do with it what we will, including not having it used, or indeed selling it to FB, Cambridge Analytica, or anyone else should we choose to do so?

It is no argument to say, as Alex Steer from the GroupM agency Wavemaker has it in ‘Campaign’ that  what CA has done is not original because his agency does the same thing, and that therefore all is well. All that does is say he, Wavemaker and GroupM are in the wrong, ethically and morally if not legally.

Nor is this in anyway the same as using aggregated data from market research; data given by the respondent in return for cash and under a clear understanding of the end use.

Nor is it the same as collecting aggregated data from a first party source like a (let’s not forget, regulated) publisher, assuming the data has been collected in a manner that is GDPR compliant.

… read on at bjanda.com

Originally posted by Brian Jacobs on The Cog Blog at BJ&A
19th March 2018