OMG! Bl**dy Facebook is sharing data about me everywhere! But … is there any real reason to freak out over the Cambridge Analytica Scandal??
I’m baffled by the hoohah over the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. Seriously baffled
There, I’ve said it. Go ahead. Gasp, scorn, flame …
And nope, you don’t have to explain to me what has happened and what data breach is. I’ve read local, international, and (highly) personalized reports on the scandal. For the record, let me also highlight I’m not suggesting involved parties go unpunished. It was subterfuge. Something that should not be done has happened, on top of a major global company trying to keep it under wraps. There needs to be some form of punishment, one way or another. On the other hand, what I don’t understand is the widespread horror over the whole scandal. How said horror then becomes the fuel for a variety of doomsday predictions.
But I jump the gun. For the sake of clarity, shall we first take a look at what a Facebook user stands to “lose” in such a data breach? Feel free to condemn me (in comments!) if I left something out.
- For those who actually use their real names in their profile.
- Address, academic history, work history, the likes of. I.E. whatever personal records the user has shared.
- List of likes. I don’t mean which posts or pages the user has liked, but hobbies, favourite movies, companies worked at, etc. By inference, also unlikes.
- Ad Searches. Etc.
- List of friends, associates, potential friends. By inference again, socio-political inclination.
- Credit card details, for those who bought something via Facebook.
- Your personality and overall disposition towards life. As implied by statements posted, pictures shared, comments left, etc, etc.
Long story short: How to download a copy of all the data Facebook has about you.
Wow. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Your entire life, or should I say, the access to your entire life for the picking on one digital platform. Just ‘cos of one data breach. But before you freak out, note the following.
- Things like your name, work history, even address and phone number. How many people and organisations already have these? When you fill up a lucky draw form, when you apply for a job, when you struggle through some government application, how many of such details are divulged by yourself?
- Till today, there is still no law in Singapore restricting shops and restaurant owners from removing your credit card from your line of vision. Or if there’s any, I don’t see anyone observing it. What’s to stop someone from taking a snapshot of all your numbers? Even when the law exists, someone could still easily memorise your numbers. (Has happened before here) The only real way to counter credit card fraud is really to regularly monitor your balance .
- How many surveys, formal and informal, have you participated in?
- Have many anonymous surveys have you participated in? Someone calls you, tells you they are so and so. And there you go, you share your life in zest over an hour.
- How many of your friends, associates, family members, and colleagues talk behind your back? “Oh, Robert? Blood liberal atheist …”
- When you go for a job interview, and you are asked everything from your likes and hobbies, to your philosophical views on life. What’s to stop the interviewer from sharing your answers with the whole company? In the name of work and assessment? What happens when it’s a company with political projects? Such as Cambridge Analytica?
So that you don’t misunderstand, let me reiterate. I’m not saying the entire Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal is forgivable. Neither am I suggesting those involved go unpunished. In its simplest form, it’s active deception.
What I’m saying is instead, whatever data shared is data about you readily found elsewhere. If you are furious because you have been mined, or you are panicking about whether you would soon be mined, consider whether it has already been happening your entire life. (And happening as you read my rant) Consider too whether there is any realistic prevention, outside of safeguarding your money and health, and whether in many ways, you still actively contribute to such data sharing. Even as you shudder over what was revealed about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, how much about yourself are you sharing with the world at large?
In the process, you might also wish to contemplate the other big issue of life on hand. Here’s my rudest statement for this post. Be prepared … For the life of me, I cannot understand why someone would use Facebook information to reach a political or religious decision, and if it’s happening, why aren’t countries panicking over this act. Short of overt hate speech and pornography, everything gets posted on Facebook. You need but a glance to know most postings aren’t actively moderated or monitored. If people are relying on randomly seen unverified information and highly dramatised personal opinions for important socio-political decisions, wouldn’t they be as equally susceptible in a café, at a party, or while languishing on a public bus?
Ban Facebook, and the schemers move to another social media platform. Ban all social media, and the inciters resume hanging out at cafés.
To me, the bigger threat, the real threat, is how easy it is to manipulate electorates nowadays. Yet, there is so little attention on that.
Perhaps it’s because many of the harshest critics of the current data breach are themselves benefitting from its fuel. You know, an aspirant sets up a Facebook page. Someone likes it. Under FB’s algorithm, the new page is very likely to be suggested to friends of the one who liked it. The next thing you know, the aspirant is the new prime minister. And then he starts condemning the reach of social media.
Appalling, isn’t it? Unfortunately, freaking out over the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal is not even the start of the prevention.
If you really need to be sure what’s at stake, here’s how you can download a copy of the information Facebook has about you.
- Log on to your account.
- Goto https://www.facebook.com/settings
- Click “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”
- Click “Download Archive.”
- If it’s your virgin attempt, Facebook will need some time to consolidate the information. You’d be notified by email once the archive is ready for downloading.
- Click on the link in the email to return to the settings page.
- Click “Download Archive” again to download a zipped file to your computer.
- Within the zipped file is a file named “index.htm.” To view this, you would first need to unpack the contents of the zipped file to a normal folder. After which you can use a web browser programme like Firefox or Chrome to view the index.htm file.