Data Mining, Not the First Time To be Used

The data firm used by the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, is taking its turn in the eyes of many as the villain responsible for the apocalyptic outcome of the presidential election of 2016. Others, of course, have included Russia and the Electoral College system, but progressives are especially distressed about this one.

That a crude and brutish outfit like the Trump campaign could use their data-mining tools and politically allied platforms like Facebook against them adds extra sting to the wound of the loss.

Companies like Cambridge Analytica are not rare, nor are their practices. In this case they culled user data from Facebook by doing things like dangling dumb personality quizzes and other interactive tripe on social media, waiting for users to engage. Then they helped themselves to as much user information and data as they wanted. They also accessed users’ online “friends.” It allowed them to build accurate political profiles for team Trump to target with advertising.

There is nothing illegal in the process. Selling data is what Facebook does and accounts for the vast share of its $16 billion in profits in 2017.

This type of scrutiny by detractors is reserved for this particular president. Media raved when the Obama campaign used similar data to target voters in the 2012 election. “Data You Can Believe In —The Obama Campaign’s Digital Masterminds Cash In,” was the fawning headline in The New York Times.

Again, Facebook’s stock in trade is to sell data to third-party vendors. Some of these outfits break the terms of service with Facebook and are dealt with according to the Zuckerberg dictates, but if you are on Facebook, you should know that you are a product being bought and sold routinely.

Everything you “like,” comment on or interact with is being tracked and aggregated. Users­ communicate with platforms and platforms communicate with each other. It’s not just Facebook, either. Smart assistants like Siri and Alexa are in the game, too. Anything you talk to is always listening. This should be what is most concerning about the entire Cambridge Analytica affair.

Social media sites may know everything about you. Gary Miliefsky, executive producer of Cyber Defense Magazine, laid bare the chilling facts on Boston Herald Radio yesterday, “Facebook has more data on you than the NSA.”

No one should “like” that.   –   bostonherald


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