Imagine a Political Party that Uses Facebook and Other Companies to Rig National Elections.
You might think that sounds like a “Black Mirror” episode, but in fact, it is the current reality. By default, the details of your preferences and online identity and activities can be easily grabbed by companies sold to interested parties who have all sorts of uses for the information.
Documentaries like The Great Hack from Netflix and companies like Cambridge Analytica (which was subjected to a class action lawsuit for violating the U.S. Stored Communications Act, same for Facebook and two other companies) have demonstrated that such tampering has created very serious issues in America and other countries.
The Price of Your Online Identity
The profits made by Cambridge Analytica and many other companies show that cybercrime and misuse of online data are more profitable than the illegal drug trade. The profit from the illegal drug industry amounts to around $400 billion annually. According to Cyber Security Ventures, cybercriminals stole roughly $600 billion in 2019. One of the most profitable hunting grounds for hackers is social media, including the most widely known.
If you have not watched The Great Hack (available on Netflix, Youtube, etc.), I guarantee that watching this outstanding documentary would be eye-opening. It provides an alarming look at social media, politics, and how the 2016 presidential election in the U.S. was grievously manipulated through ads on Facebook that targeted America’s uncertain voters.
Beyond analyzing the ads, the documentary explores the dark doings of the “psychological data company,” Cambridge Analytica, which employed misleading propaganda campaigns that targeted people identified through Facebook’s psychological profiling as “swing voters” who could be persuaded how to vote. Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Brexit proponents in the U.K., Ted Cruz’s and Donald Trump’s campaigns in the U.S., and political parties in several other countries, used complex data tracking systems that compiled people’s likes, interests, and interactions on Facebook to identify and target the most impressionable voters for influencing through ads that targeting those specific voters. But the problem was not just the ads on Facebook and in various other types of media. Cambridge Analytica also advised the Trump campaign on messaging in general and scripts for Trump speeches at campaign rallies.
Despite his representing Facebook before the U.S. Congress and the lawsuits against Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg denied knowledge or responsibility for any misused information. Similarly, the former head of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, testified in front of a committee of the British House of Commons, pretending innocence and dodging responsibility. In other words, when it comes to protecting our online identity, rich tech companies are leaving us on our own.
All the information we post and share through social media can be targeted by third parties, some of whom have bad intentions or desire to manipulate us. You might not be bothered by targeted ads occasionally, but are you comfortable with companies making a profit from a psychological profile of you they develop or buy from research firms? A profile shows where you go, who you befriend, traits in your personality type, and the things you love or hate on social media. After The Great Hack came out, the main protagonist, David Carroll, was visited by a journalist who showed him the profile David could not get from Cambridge Analytica. Mr. Carroll was shocked by all the information about him in the profile.
So, what can you do to protect yourself and those around you from these types of social media intrusion?
- Become aware of what actually happens with the online presence of you and other consumers. Promptly, research social media hacks and data breaches and immerse yourself in the new reality of the online world. (Read our blogs and investigate the links we provide for deeper research.)
- Secure your identity by monitoring and cleaning up your online digital footprints. (See the Presence article on protecting your privacy on a smartphone.) Also, here are 4 Things Presence can do for you to help protect your online information.
- Eliminate false, damaging, or unwanted information whenever and wherever you detect it. Use the Presence Global App to discover who has your metadata and then remove the information from wherever you don’t want it.
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Download Presence: https://bit.ly/presenceglobal, and begin your journey towards online privacy and peace of mind.
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