In news that should shock absolutely no one, Facebook has once again been caught up in compromising our personal information and democracy.
A report published in the New York Times detailed how Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling company, acquired data about more than 50 million Facebook users before being hired by the Trump campaign in 2016.
The data was harvested through an online personality quiz app on Facebook that paid participants for its completion. The app, which took information from the participants profile, as well as from the profiles of their friends, was downloaded by 270,000 people, leading to information on more than 50 million Facebook users.
It wasn’t until the publishing of the report that Facebook took action on Cambridge Analytica, suspending them from the website, almost two years after the election. Facebook maintains that the use of the data wasn’t a “data breach,” since the data was voluntarily provided.
They’re right. It wasn’t a breach of data, just a breach of user trust.
A significant amount of the data was collected because of a policy listed in the fine print of the website that allowed friends to turn over data through apps such as the one used by Cambridge Analytica. Facebook’s claim to consent is intellectually dishonest at best.
This latest scandal only serves as further warning to anyone who makes frequent use of the website. Facebook has long been the core of many people’s internet experience, but the time has come for that to change.
Distributing our information and threatening our democracy are far from the only issues with Facebook. An entire culture of narcissism can be linked to the prominence of Facebook. Research conducted at Western Illinois University found that people that scored highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire generally had more friends on Facebook and updated their statuses more frequently than those who scored lower. And there has been countless research into the addictive nature of Facebook, causing users to divulge more and more. And as the case is with many addictions, there are corporations benefiting at the expense of the addict.
Facebook is far separated from the days when it was an innocent platform meant to share cute cat pictures with family and friends. It has proven to be a more effective tool of data collection and distribution for corporations and other private interests than a platform that promotes personal connection. The website has eroded any trust that it has its user’s backs.
Facebook users, it’s time to pull the plug.