DUFAULT: Facebook data crisis not a surprise


The National Science Foundation provided a grant to Marquette for an updated supercomputing cluster. Marquette Wire stock photo.

Facebook is under fire, and it’s for an unsurprising reason. The social media platform is in the news for a privacy scandal involving the accounts of its users. A firm named Cambridge Analytica pulled personal data from the accounts of over 50 million Facebook users.

The firm allegedly employed a company to create a survey that could be utilized to create ‘psychographic profiles’ of the people who took it. Cambridge Analytica was also employed by now-President Donald Trump during his campaign and may have been used to influence the outcome of the election.

This is a complicated development, but it essentially boils down to this: Facebook is not committed to keeping people’s private data safe. But honestly, this does not surprise me in the slightest.

This is a classic example of people putting too much trust into a large corporation, and since Facebook has an unconventional business model, it is more inclined to take more risks. Facebook is a free service and doesn’t require users to spend any money, so this means that Facebook primarily makes money from advertising and endorsements.

It is likely, then, that Cambridge Analytica offered Facebook a lucrative deal in an agreement to allow it to have access to users’ personal data. But it’s difficult to believe that Facebook needed this deal badly, considering it is already in a stable financial position.

Instead, this seems like a case of Facebook becoming too greedy. The social media site was already doing well financially, which makes this unethical decision more perplexing. Now, the site is paying the price for its terrible mistake, as the corporation has already lost about $80 billion in stock since the scandal became public.

Add all this to the continuous questionable decisions that Facebook has made in the past couple of months. Remember Messenger Kids, the extension of the Facebook Messenger application geared at children younger than 12? It’s the social media website’s attempt to appeal to all ages, and it’s honestly a pretty terrible idea for parents to get involved with. Especially when it’s now been proved that the corporation holds the privacy of its adult users so cheaply.

All this is proof that the world entrusts too much in social media. As previously stated, Facebook is a corporation, and it needs to make money somehow. It’s a common practice for large-scale corporations to gain the trust of their consumers and then take advantage of them in some manner. While that’s obvious, it’s also true that people are much too modest about how they perceive social media websites.

In truth, Facebook isn’t the small, innocent website it was in 2005. Now, it’s one of the world’s largest corporate entities and has the ability to make a massive impact on how people perceive the world. That is why its users must be careful about what kind of information they choose to share on social media.

Personally, I’m pretty careless with how I throw my data around at times. On Facebook, I have my birthday, home location and university listed on my profile. In addition to that, I’ve “liked” a plethora of pages that pertain to my interests.

People who partake in these social media habits, myself included, display a newly developed societal aspect. Due to social media, we are more inclined to share essentially every aspect of our lives. Social media sites similar to Facebook, such as Snapchat and Twitter, not only make it easy but actively encourage users to share whatever they are doing.

As we’ve seen here, they can (and will) take advantage of the information given to them. They use this information to tailor advertisements to users, which could require selling information to third parties, with or without consent.

The Facebook situation is indicative of how this precedent in society could be harmful. It’s bad enough that plenty of scandals arise from people accidentally sharing information online, but it’s a new level when we actively put private aspects of our lives online so large corporations can take advantage of it.

Society should use more restraint when putting personal information online, so scandals such as this have less of a chance to occur.