The continued backlash of Cambridge Analytica

Countless privacy violations have cropped up in recent years; they are gleefully gobbled up by the media, and then tend to fizzle out before the next security incident pops up, whack-a-mole style, to replace it. Cambridge Analytica changed that. It evoked an almost visceral response from the consumers affected and the press alike. This privacy faux-pas shifted the landscape from consumers openly and willingly (and sometimes not so consciously) sharing data, to a feeling of being manipulated, violated and tricked into sharing something or doing something that they didn’t want to in the first place. What can only be described as a big red line was crossed, and an entire paradigm of tolerance and acceptance got turned on its head. Why the outcry?

A question of identity

The Cambridge Analytica scandal rocked us all to the core, because it resurfaced fundamental questions of identity and our perception of it. In the past few decades, there has been a growing thought and unspoken belief that Man is God. Man creates machine (read: technology), Man wields said technology. Man is master, technology is slave. But with the advent of AI on the horizon, there is growing doubt as to whether Mankind is even the pinnacle of evolution. What Cambridge Analytica demonstrated is that we are biological machines that operate in the same way that AI does and can be manipulated or used in the same way – we are algorithms that have predictable outputs if certain criteria are met (i.e. we share certain information or we Like certain things on Facebook)

This raises some thought-provoking, existential questions about our place in the world, and how we are affected and nudged by something as simple as a click on a web-app. It demonstrates an evolution of technology’s influence on us, from suggesting where to eat dinner, and gathering predictable outcomes for advertising and events promotions, to something much more sinister. The manipulation of voting, and acceptance of misinformation campaigns – for example.

The discussion continues

Until recently, there was back and forth over whether the data used in Cambridge Analytica’s remit was exploited to interfere with the Brexit vote. The lasting impact on those that owned the company and the outward ripple effect continue to be examined. Alexander Nix, the CEO and founder of the company recently withdrew, wisely, from a panel at Cannes Lions focusing on the morality of data. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this is that there seems to be a marked increase in the adoption of further security and privacy measures by Facebook and other tech companies such as Apple. Ironically, while user numbers are still growing on the platform, there has been a marked decrease in actions, such as shares and Likes, on Facebook since the privacy revelation came to light.

This does beg the question: why weren’t these companies privacy-focused in the first place? As visionaries of data and the internet, surely this would have been one of the top priorities for these companies? When it comes to our data and identity, are we in charge, or is someone else?

It’s reassuring that there is a renewed interest in data and personal privacy as a result of Cambridge Analytica’s mistake. People are beginning to realise that they can take control of their own digital identities, and use tools to protect their personal information. This extends to the professional realm, where your digital identity is arguably more important. In the latter scenario, it isn’t just your own data that’s at stake, but that of your customers, and that of the employer itself. As mobile working and work-based applications grow in popularity and number, there is an increased risk that the data you access on a daily basis can be stolen due to disparate identity-based authentication systems.

One way to protect yourself is through the proper use of identity management when logging into applications that manage our access to vital tools and services. SecureData has a long and extensive pedigree in managing these services for enterprises, taking stress away and helping extend IT teams’ focus on more business-critical activities, rather than identity management. Get in touch today and see how we can help you ensure your employees’ identities are protected in the new connected world.

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