How to fix Facebook: Podcast 361.

Facebook and Mr Zuckerberg go to Congress: Podcast 364

Wired (2018). http://www.wired.co.uk/article/podcast-361. How to fix Facebook: Podcast 361.

Wired (2018). http://www.wired.co.uk/article/podcast-364. Facebook and Mr Zuckerberg go to Congress: Podcast 364


In this podcast, the presenters discuss the details about what happened between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to result in the personal details of millions of people being compromised. I found it helpful and especially interesting to hear the evaluative points raised by the presenters about the significance of the effect Cambridge Analytica has had.

I found out that Facebook had known about this data breach since 2015, but had requested Cambridge Analytica to delete the data they had collected and so had considered it unnecessary to inform Facebook users. This raises questions as to whether we have the right to know about how our data is used, as the psychographic data was collected based on traits such as neuroticism, conscientiousness etc. through trawling through profiles, and surveys. This enabled people to be classified into groups and thus supposedly enable Cambridge Analytica to microtarget ads to those whose votes they thought would be able to swing, harnessing Facebook’s platform.

In a later podcast, Mr Zuckerberg Goes To Congress, the presenters discussed whether Facebook has a duty to monitor, regulate and prevent the advertising on its platform. Although this is done to an extent, there are occasions (such as this) in which developers slip through. This also happened in the UK in 2012, were Russians were paid to influence the views of British people. The presenters also pointed out however, that this is just how Facebook’s business model is and that people are only just waking up to it. As a private company, the company’s incentive is undoubtedly profit and so implementing all these measures will not only increase costs but reduce revenue. This event has even raised the suggestion that Facebook ought to be nationalised, as it has become so integral to the public that it ought to be centrally run. Of course, this is unrealistic in the way of costs and would raise other concerns depending on which government was in charge of running it.

Despite this concern however, Zuckerberg welcomed the idea of more transparency around advertising and regulation. Again, however, this may not have any effect as people are willing (or even have no choice) to give up their data in exchange for the services that Facebook offers. This is especially the case because Facebook has no real competitor. Surely Facebook still have a duty to ensure that its users are not exploited? Pressure around regulation of these online platforms has increase following the unfolding of these events.

Though seemingly shocking, the presenters pointed out that it is difficult to quantify the effect that Cambridge Analytica had on the election. It is difficult to tell whether the targeted ads ‘worked’ or not, and so it is difficult to gauge its influence though I argue that the potential of this happening is worrisome in itself. A study carried out on Facebook in 2012 found that using banner ads resulted in 0.24% of people clicking through, and increased turnout by 9000 – again, it is difficult to put this down solely to ads and not a more efficient campaign/ engaged public.

Overall, I not only enjoyed this podcast but feel as if I learnt a great deal more about the Cambridge Analytica story. I found out that as well as psychographic profiles being produced, 0.01% of the users’ messages were also trawled. I think the power that Facebook has grown to have in the modern day world has until recently not been realised, and its scale could pose a danger to democracy and suggests there is an urgency to put more serious, precise regulation in place. Ultimately though, this is perhaps just another medium of marketing, and it is only the data that you choose to share that can be used to make inferences and generate insights. In today’s world, however, having an online presence has become almost essential to do anything so opting out is hardly an option.

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