Will Cambridge Analytica Scandal Change Social Media?
The company called Cambridge Analytica is specialized in analyzing political data and their projects involved collecting and analyzing the personal data of 87 million Facebook users back in 2014. This fact was made public by one of Facebook’s executives and it made millions of users question whether their personal information can be safely shared on the platform.
Even before this announcement, there were earlier reports about the amount of accounts Cambridge Analytica used in their projects. These estimated that the company collected info from over 50 million users on Facebook. As Mike Schroepfer, the director of the engineering at Facebook said, the information was collected mainly from people that live in the US and has been improperly shared on the platform.
Another announcement informed people that Facebook will send a notification for those users whose data has been collected by Cambridge Analytica, starting from April 9. Andy Stone, the communications manager at the social network stated that the 87 million was only their rough estimate of the maximum number of accounts that Cambridge Analytica was able to collect information from.
This is where Dr. Aleksandr Kogan enters the picture, a psychology professor at Cambridge University. He is the man behind the Facebook application called ’#thisisyourdigitallife’ that played a huge role in the work of Cambridge Analytica.
What Facebook did is they added up the number of people that used the application and all their Facebook friends. This is how they ended up with 87 million as a result. Therefore, only Cambridge Analytica knows the exact number of users they collected their data from. However, we already know that the software that helped to collect the information was ‘#thisisyourdigitallife’.
Mark Zuckerberg also spoke up about the subject. He said that because they don’t have accurate information about how many users got affected, Facebook rather announced the maximum number so that everyone knows the worst case scenario.
What is Cambridge Analytica?
Large businesses and political parties all can hugely benefit from the services provided by Cambridge Analytica. Their service revolves around collecting data from various sources and using the derivative data to manipulate the behavior of their target audience.
Their group of professionals is specialized in analyzing big data and applying behavioral science to the results. This way, they can select a huge number of people that are most likely to respond positively to marketing campaigns. After all, it is much easier and cost-effective to present the ads to an audience that is most likely to buy a particular product or vote for a specific political party.
The main sources where Cambridge Analytica collected their data were Facebook and their own polls, mainly through applications. Since Facebook is about to change their platform after the case, they will probably need to find a different source in the future.
The company is based in London as a part of the bigger company called SCL Group, which is also specialized in behavioral science and strategic communication. It established back in 2013 and provides its services in many countries all around the World.
Cambridge Analytica Denied the Numbers
Cambridge Analytica didn’t agree with the numbers announced by Facebook. They stated that a maximum of 30 million accounts were used for harvesting information. This number was made public by Kogan’s research group, the Global Science Research which is specialized in marketing research.
Many people suspected that the data was used to facilitate Donald Trump’s campaign and make sure he has the highest chance during election. Cambridge Analytica stated that the collected data had nothing to do with the campaign. As the company stated, the people that used ‘#thisisyourdigitallife’ on Facebook provided the information by their own will.
They were not forced, and the company didn’t hack these accounts nor did steal their login credentials. Since then, they made sure that all the raw data is erased along with the information they derived from the complete analysis.
This was done as a response to Facebook’s directive to delete the data, which is completely in accordance with their rights. It’s no wonder that this case greatly damaged Mark Zuckerberg’s reputation, as their system allowed Cambridge Analytica to commit a complete privacy breach on millions of people.
Cambridge Analytica behind Donald Trump’s Election
Robert Mercer is known as one of the most loyal supporters of Trump. He gave a generous $15 million to Cambridge Analytica to support their work. Robert Mercer is also the man behind Breitbart, the rightwing website that published a lot of content that were conspiracy theories, misleading articles or news that were based on false information.
He was introduced to Cambridge Analytica by Steve Bannon, who was responsible for the last phase of Trump’s election campaign. But this was not the first time when the company worked on facilitating a candidate’s election. They worked on three different campaigns so far, collecting data from millions of people every time.
On the official website of Cambridge Analytical, they clearly describe what their methods are and how they use the collected data to achieve their goals. By analyzing millions of user accounts, they can find those voters that are most likely to be convinced. At the end of the analysis, they know exactly which issues these people care about the most.
As a last step, they send them messages that increase the chance of them voting for the political party. Cambridge Analytica also made sure to regularly poll voters in 17 US countries to keep track of their opinions. They also promoted during the campaign through many different channels online and attracted people via social media platforms.
This was highly effective and Alexander Nix, the founder of Cambridge Analytica mentioned in many of his speeches how well they performed during the election campaign and how they attracted many organizations to donate for the case.
The main issue was that they collected data from Facebook, a source that shouldn’t even have made the information available.
Facebook Wants to Protect User Information
As the case evolved into a huge controversy, Facebook had to figure out something. They decided to calm the audience by announcing the changes we are going to see on the platform. These major fixes are going to make sure that Facebook protects their user data so that no company or application can arbitrarily get access to it on the platform.
They are already working on the changes and according to their plans, all the fixes are going to be applied in the next few months. Mark Zuckerberg also had to show up in front of the U.S. Congress and answer plenty of questions regarding the case. Since then, Cambridge Analytica and all the individuals that worked on collecting data were suspended from the platform during the time Facebook tries to find out what happened exactly.