Unethical uses of Information Systems: Cambridge Analytica and Facebook

Hey, welcome back. It’s Ciarán once again, as I mentioned in previous blogs, I’m going to briefly mention some companies that used advanced data collection systems, without users prior knowledge nor consent. First up is Cambridge-Analytica and Facebook.

The most public scandal concerning the unethical use of user data involved a political data-analytics firm called Cambridge Analytica and social media titan Facebook. The firm was accused of using and secretly keeping access to over 87 million Facebook users, WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION. This was collected via a 3rd party quiz on Facebook called ‘This Is Your Digital Life’ which 270'000 people were paid to take. (Confessore, 2017) This lead to massive data harvesting which involved data collection on everyone’s Facebook friends. ‘Cambridge Analytica itself boasted that it had enough data points on every American, to build extensive personality profiles, which its clients can leverage for ‘psychographic targeting’ of ads.’ (Wired,2021).

It’s also worth mentioning that Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, so it pretty much captures the entire population of the developed world. You might think so what, a few companies have my data? This information was used for both Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign’s in 2016, and was heavily investigated for interfering in the Brexit Campaign (*Not Proven) and various Russian Oil Firms. (Wired, 2021)

A lot of people never understand the true gravity of this scandal. Data Mining is collecting data. Data Brokerage is selling it. This information was used to manipulate millions of people. Not convince using facts, they targeted individuals who they believed would be the most persuadable and gave them biased information. The bottom line is, companies can sold data to people to sway elections. Companies also sell data. It’s also worth mentioning, they were only caught because of a whistleblower. How much more of this is still going on? The ability for companies to purchase massive amounts of consumer data has dire repercussions for us as individuals and our human rights to privacy. And were there any real repercussions for these two companies? No, a few irrelevant fines and unkept promises. However, it really helped open the public’s eyes to how big a problem this is.

Next up: I’ll be discussing one company that’s trying to protect you from information systems. Apple

References

Confessore, N., 2021. Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: The Scandal and the Fallout So Far (Published 2018). [online] Nytimes.com. Available at:

<https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/us/politics/cambridge-analytica-scandal-fallout.html> [Accessed 25 March 2021].

Wired, 2021. The Cambridge Analytica Story, Explained. [online] WIRED.

Available at: <https://www.wired.com/amp-stories/cambridge-analytica-explainer/> [Accessed 25 March2021].

A Group of TCD College students investigating how information systems have changed the business decision making landscape