The personal data of the users is highly significant and the information breaches may lead to disastrous consequences demonstrating that the Cambridge Analytica scandal is a sign of potentially much more problematic future developments.
In the contemporary world, all aspects of society, including the personal data of individuals and organizations, continually become more digitalized with the increasing impact of technology. This phenomenon inevitably leads to a greater rate of cybercrime and potential breaches of private information that might be found online. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a highly notable cyber attack that occurred in 2018, and the personal details of 87 million people were revealed (Hinds et al. 4). Therefore, further research concerning data protection and cybersecurity is necessary to minimize potential risks.
For the sake of the current work, it is essential to briefly describe the Cambridge Analytics scandal and explain the significance of online privacy in the digital age. In the present time, social media is in higher demand than it has ever been, and more than 43% of individuals actively utilize social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter (Brown 1). Nevertheless, a minor number of users understand the significance of cyber privacy and willingly provide their personal data. While it is true that information breaches, such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, are considered illegal, prominent social networks continually harvest data to provide appropriate content. Therefore, the users technically consent to information gathering by registering on the website and filling in the forms concerning personal details. Nevertheless, despite insufficient awareness of cybersecurity, the users have protested globally after the Cambridge Analytica scandal asking people to delete their accounts on Facebook (Hinds et al. 4). In general, such trends are beneficial since they further expand individuals’ knowledge of cyber privacy in the digital age.
The initial objective of the current research is to analyze various mechanisms of data gathering and discuss how they were implemented in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Consequently, the paper explains how data harvesting might be utilized for political, marketing, and manipulative purposes. Lastly, the work attempts to analyze the effects of personal information breaches on society and individuals specifically. The research might be beneficial for public usage since it increases the awareness concerning cyber privacy and identifies the threats of personal data violations. Ultimately, the current paper emphasizes the dangers of information breaches in the digital age and acknowledges that the Cambridge Analytica scandal is a sign of potentially much more problematic future developments.
Data Gathering Mechanism
Sources of the Information
In the contemporary market of social media and networks, it is widely accepted that companies openly gather and store the personal data of their customers. It might seem reasonable since such information is necessary for functioning communication between the users and also provides sufficient indication for customer-oriented recommendations, such as contextual advertisement. Nevertheless, it also makes such companies vulnerable to cyber-attacks potentially revealing the personal data of the registered individuals. Furthermore, since information is highly valuable in the digital age, business groups might intend to sell personal data to any of the interested stakeholders (Fast and Jago 44). This data might be used for various purposes, such as predictive analysis to create a behavior model of the customers (Fast and Jago 44). Additionally, prominent platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, might shift the public’s opinion globally, and only a minor part of individuals understand this concept (Crocco et al. 4). Therefore, while it might seem natural for online businesses to store personal data, there are potential risks in such policies.
Methods of Processing the Information
There are several potential means of processing personal data, and one of the most prominent methods is through application programming interfaces (APIs). The API-based approach generally concerns the extraction of private information that online businesses, such as Facebook, make available online (Venturini and Rogers 532). This method was utilized by Cambridge Analytica to acquire personal data from Facebook users making Mark Zuckerberg personally testify before Congress concerning privacy breaches (Brown 1). Furthermore, after the scandal, Facebook promised to reduce the amount of information flowing through the APIs of the company (Venturini and Rogers 532). Therefore, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has made a profound impact on how online businesses and the public perceive the API function (Venturini and Rogers 536). While this strategy was primarily a concern of cybersecurity and marketers before the outrage, the API-based approach is currently getting increased attention from the academic field to minimize potential risks (Venturini and Rogers 536). Ultimately, this might lead to the prevention of privacy breaches in the future due to innovative additions to the method.
As mentioned briefly before, private data breaches allow for various methods for online businesses to profit. While it is possible to utilize the information for public purposes, for instance, to affect the democratic elections, the primary objective of data breaches is to improve advertisement targeting. For instance, Google and Facebook utilize personal data gathered both voluntarily and through the services (via search query logs) to suggest contextual and remarketing advertising (Esteve 39). The former refers to the implementation of ads in the web pages, while the latter analyzes the previous inquiries of the users and offers them recommendations based on the search history (Esteve 40). These methods are potentially risky since they utilize personal data to a great extent, and both Google and Facebook have had serious lawsuits concerning information breaching (Esteve 40). Therefore, online businesses have to be careful in regard to personal information to not violate privacy policies.
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Venturini, Tommaso, and Richard Rogers. ““API-based research” or How Can Digital Sociology and Journalism Studies Learn from the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Data Breach.” Digital Journalism, vol. 7, no. 4, 2019, 532-540.