Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, Trump, And Perhaps Russia

Billions of people around the world are provided with a free service by Facebook.  The service allows users to stay in touch with friends and relatives and it enables some users to enjoy the Facebook megaphone.  They can voice their opinions about almost any topic and share their views with friends.  Facebook has not, however, become worth billions by providing a free service.  It makes billions by selling the information that users provide by using the free service.  Cambridge Analytica is in the business of farming the data that users provide about themselves and their friends simply by using the free service.  They profile the users, and their friends, and sell the profiles to advertisers and others who use the profiles for a variety of purposes.  Jared Kushner was in charge of Trump's digital marketing campaign.  He employed Cambridge Analytica to provide profiles of Facebook users that were used to target voters with messages based upon the profiles provided by Cambridge Analytica which is owned by the Mercer family. 50 million Facebook users were profiled by this service.  The Mercer family also funded Steve Bannon's Breitbart News organization.  It would not be surprising if the voter profiles provided to the Trump campaign by Cambridge Analytica found their way to the trolls who were employed by Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Facebook and other social media make their money by selling information to advertisers and others who use the information to target customers.  Billions of users will continue to use Facebook and other social media.  Most users probably don't know that they have consented to allow Facebook to profile them by farming the information that they provide by the actions that they take by using the free services.  What they don't know is that they are also providing information that is used to profile their friends.  Most of this is harmless but the information and services provided by Facebook and other social media has been harmful in our electoral system.  Other potential misuses of the user profiles are discussed in this article.  The conflict between Facebook's business model and the potential for the misuse of the data made available to fuel disinformation services is very real. One its top executives resigned because Facebook executives who manage profits seem willing to ignore the potential misuses of the data provided by users.

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