How Cambridge Analytica Taught Us What We Already Should’ve Known

The Cambridge Analytica scandal that broke in recent days adds a new complication to the Trump-Russia controversy currently under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller; this political angle to this developing story has been most prominent in the news. However, at the same time, Cambridge Analytica’s activities have exposed the underbelly of a burgeoning industry practically unknown to the average social media user.

Facebook, the platform utilized by Cambridge Analytica, has come under fire in recent days for its deeply lacking approach to user privacy. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, was forced to apologize for the company’s missteps, and he has since been called to testify in front of the Senate’s Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has apologized as well.

Facebook isn’t out of the woods yet, though: the New York Times reported on March 23rd that employee morale at the company is low, and Facebook faces continued reports and scrutiny over its exact privacy missteps in recent years, not just this most recent scandal. The #DeleteFacebook movement is taking hold on Twitter, and while it’s highly unlikely that the American populace will uniformly delete the popular social platform, all the negative press poses serious threat to future ad revenue - Facebook’s shares fell 13% this week alone.

While mining and selling users’ data has been a longstanding practice on social media - Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012 was up-front about its use of Facebook data to target new voters - the personally invasive nature of Cambridge Analytica’s activities is likely what is most startling to the informed technophile. Still, many individuals expressed shock that their information had ever been used to sell them things, or candidates, in any way at all.

It’s no secret that the vast majority of social media users don’t read the terms and conditions when agreeing to open an account. Going through the burdensome documents, which can stretch to hundreds of pages long, is highly impractical for the average Joe looking to log onto Facebook or Twitter for the first time. It’s still important, though, to stay apprised of what exactly you’re agreeing to.

There are plenty of resources on the Web - for example, this Huffington Post article explaining Facebook’s notorious terms and conditions contract - which break down what users agree to in an abbreviated format that is more feasibly readable. It’s undeniably important that people maintain control of what, exactly, they’re sharing with the world. Keeping on top of what we’ve agreed to share, and with whom, is something which should be common practice; it is this truth that the Cambridge Analytica scandal has startlingly brought to light.