Scott, Online English Teacher at Acadsoc.
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The victim of Facebook data scandal is up to 87 million users now. I doubt even Zuckerberg himself knows the exact amount of privacy leakage on Facebook. After BBC disclosed the new number on March 4, the opening price of Facebook per share dropped by 2.56% compared with the closing on March 3.
Regardless of Zuckerberg’s crisis management (though it is quite a failure), the public should turn their attention to the costar of this scandal-benefactors who grab your information for specific purposes. Cambridge Analytica finally became the focus, showing its true self as the invisible hand behind votings and politics. In 2016, TIME firstly regarded CA, who ran all digital campaign during the presidential election of Trump as a ‘silent partner’. More explosively, just a few days ago the CEO of CA, Alexander Nix admitted more details in an investigation of British Channel 4 News, “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.”
No wonder Facebook is one of their sources, or CA would not grab so much information from it. However, not just Facebook users in the US, probably they grabbed information of social media users globally and quietly intervene other countries’ voting results, too.
Empathy in Information Age?
The parenting company of CA, Strategic Communications Laboratories, or SCL Group is suspicious for helping Duterte won the 2016 presidential race of the Philippines. Though SCL never mentions the name of their candidates, the strategy mentioned on their webpage was clearly prepared for Duterte, using crime to rebrand the candidate as a strongman with decisive actions and slogans.
It sounds like a normal election campaign to gain voters, like advertisements we see on TV or hear in radio. However, SCL follows the same principle as its affiliate, all strategies from data and is highly recognized for behavioural change worldwide. How? ‘We use advanced assessment metrics (based on audience metrics, not program performance metrics) to demonstrate the effectiveness of programs at the audience level.’ Advanced assessment metrics here is actually a kind of Big Data analytics, which requires a massive quantity of data input to correct the metrics all the time. Furthermore, audience metrics indicates the raw data are all from targeted individuals, more precisely, voters in an election.
Before discussing ethical issues of such metrics, this highly recognized think tank has to face legal problems. Coding with Big Data to win an election is a brilliant and advanced innovation. Maybe it is the inevitable trend of future politics, but should not be a mass application in this age. Technology is neutral and it can be used in either a right or wrong way. We call for law and moral to supervise the application of technology. Apprenrantly, the supervision of Big Data is not yet perfected, neither the public knows how their data is processed nor such processing is transparent and welcome for inspection.
Since SCL is registered in the UK, their automatic processing of data should follow the regulation of Strasburg’s Accord signed by EU Council-All individuals reserve the right to know how their data is processing for what purpose and essentially sensitive data such as gender, race, and belief of persons are not allowed to be processed. Did anyone of you hear of SCL before? Nevermind you know how they process your information and where they acquired such information. And inevitably, if SCL can really achieve a ‘100% success rate’ as they self-promote, audience metrics have to take sensitive data into account. One’s race, skin colour, income level, gender, and belief are key indicators affecting their preference in candidates.
Respect the right to privacy
In a report published by Mckinsey & Company, a famous international consulting corp. concerning Big Data in marketing and sales, it suggested three ways for retailers and business owners get customers’ data: A. Encourage customers to leave their message via login, membership or campaigns. B. Buy customers’ data from credit consulting companies, research houses, and other professional data collection companies. C. Partner with Vendors such as Visa and Mastercard to get more customers’ information.
Big Data is a new technology to better analyze the existed data and it shall not be the excuse to invade others’ privacy and right to remain undisturbed. As Mckinsey suggested, the major focus of Big Data in business is to better analyze and understand the stored data of your customers instead of collecting more persons’ information by all means. Only if a customer interacts with you spontaneously at a certain touchpoint, then the retailer will be able to promote products and collect their information.
In a word, business owners are allowed to do data mining and analytics from legally purchased data. Some of them may successfully generate their own audience metrics. For example, people aged in which group, male or female, resident in city/countryside are most likely to purchase TV sets. But it doesn’t mean you can bombard a stranger who matches for your metrics but never gets in touch with your business with junk mail and SMS.
Voting for a candidate is far more serious than buying a skirt. Customers can ask for a refund if they wrongfully pick your goods, but can voters ask for a second chance if they vote for the wrong person?