Without Facebook, you’ll still have no control over your data.
While Facebook controversies continue to plague our feeds week after week, Netflix has also released a new documentary The Great Hack, exploring the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook data scandal surrounding the election of Trump back in 2018.
The Great Hack brief overview
To sum it all up, the 1h 54min documentary did absolutely nothing but remind you that Facebook owns our data, portray personal vendettas of each featured individual and still, fail to reveal how Cambridge Analytica gathered data on 30M individuals. The documentary circles around 4 key individuals — David Carroll, a data rights activist, Carole Caraddlawar, investigative journalist who worked on the exposé, Brittany Kaiser, one of the ex employees who have come out to speak against Cambridge Analytica, and finally, Alexander Nix, the man in question — former CEO of Cambridge Analytica.
Featuring these individuals, it focused almost entirely based on ex-Cambridge Analytica top exec/BD head, Brittany Kaiser’s POV and story. It started with whistleblower Christopher Wylie, another ex employee, recounting the episode and indicating that Brittany Kaiser was not a whistleblower. However, the documentary continues to follow Kaiser on her journey in and out of the committee proceedings; with interview interceptions of other individuals. Notably, she was also the one who proposed and wrote the contract for Trump’s campaign. The film ended with the liquidation of Cambridge Analytica.
The Weaponisation of Facebook
As Kaiser sits in front of the committee, proposing that the use of data and psychographics be classified as a weapon, she was also the very same person who worked on both Brexit’s proposal and the 2016 Trump Campaign. The film goes on to show parts of Zuckerberg’s hearing regarding Facebook’s involvement and knowledge of Cambridge Analytica’s actions. During this scene, Kaiser called out to Zuckerberg over the TV stream, “blame it on me, Mark. Go for it.”. Nothing but a desperate attempt to clear her name. I was kinda sick of watching it at this point.
It is now a known-fact that Facebook has access to our privacy and data which are used to sell to advertisers on its platforms; at least, the government and mainstream media has made extra effort for all of us to be aware of that. Let’s think about it for a second.
Facebook began aggregating everyday users, by building entertainment and leveraging on our gratification of this sole reality that we, as individuals on the platform, have built for ourselves. It’s hard to leave this world. Next, it encouraged further content creation and slowly, it started pulling merchants, advertisers in and we’re talking about advertisers being able to reach 2.39 billion users on the platform. If you’ve ever had the chance to explore the Audience Insights tool as an advertiser, you’d know what I’m talking about. That is how much data Facebook has on us and let’s be honest, which advertiser is gonna turn this opportunity away? I’ll say it for the rest of the advertisers and marketers — Thanks for building this!
Truth is the average person on the street doesn’t care about data being stolen.
At least, not enough. Or as long as the data does not lead to random people calling them up.
Just like drugs, cryptocurrency and almost every item created out of good intention, Facebook has been repurposed by some of these users for malign interests. This cycle is inevitable. I’ll tell you honestly that as much as Facebook has done it the most, it doesn’t take away the fact that almost every platform you’re signed in to, is collecting data in some way. Snapchat even had a map, which most users didn’t know was activated, that your contacts could easily access and find where you’re at.
In more recent news, thanks to narcissism and how we’re hooked to looking younger, we’ve had ‘Guess My Age’ app just a few years back which collected photos you’ve submitted for the app for it to guess your age. But years later since then, today in 2019, we have FaceApp, born in Russia, that is still popularly used despite the very same issue with photo and data collection. You still see people on your feed using the app despite all these articles being published and notices going out.
The truth is the average user didn’t care about data control; but the media is using the power of your personal data to sway your perception on the big players whose platforms they have the least control in.
We’ve also seen things the way the film wanted all of us to see — that Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are the bad guys. Ignoring the fact that the mainstream print media had a huge role to play in the entire saga.
While The Great Hack has shown how data influences your decision-making process through social media, it has also subtly revealed how the mainstream media takes advantage. And it’s unfortunate that nobody has noticed. During Nix’s proceedings, Kaiser first received an email and then a notification shortly after, that Caraddlawar had published an article on how Kaiser has met with Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeads, and “discussed the US election”; which she was subsequently subpoenaed for and which Kaiser has also, in that instance, clarified that she did not do. Funnily, people have conveniently brushed that off as a lie; but at the same time, believed everything else she has said about the involvement and things Cambridge Analytica has done. It’s a nudge that we all listen and absorb information selectively to paint the reality we want.
The scandal and its exposé may have served a greater good in reminding everyone that your data has been exploited, but has it done enough to educate the average viewer on how we could be more careful?
Clearly, it hasn’t; so has it achieved what it has set out to do? The average Facebook user is still unaffected by how the social media giant has already monopolised the 3 greatest communication platforms we use every single day — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Feed us convenience, and we give our data up to you. This is how the average social media-reliant person today lives.
Targeting Facebook: a timely coincidence? Who are the winners here?
The ultimate winners in the entire exposé, I’d say, is none other than Carolle Caraddlawar and the very same government which has Trump sitting on top of — one capitalised on the entire scandal, proceeds to speak on Ted and win Pulitzer Prize while another is waiting to collect a hefty US$5 billion FTC fine from Facebook.
With marketing departments restructuring to function as marTech-focused teams, market-leading online platforms will eventually be the only tool marketers will ever need — be it to market household items or political campaigns. Stopping the biggest player in this innately-warped society is NOT putting an end to the misuse of data. Encouraging transparency is.
I see the film as a strategic release to further sway minds and perceptions on Facebook, all the while associating the tech giant with our data and privacy. This is derived with recent weeks of Facebook’s updates with the announcement of Libra (it’s own cryptocurrency), and the continual discussions of Libra vs Bitcoin by the congressmen. If you haven’t been following, US politicians are now starting to see how Bitcoin could be relevant and have pit it against Libra, which in essence is a centralised cryptocurrency, which Facebook, once again, will have control of. So here we go again, the debate on Facebook and its monopolising control.
The truth is, whoever the biggest player is, will always have control. Once upon a time, obsolete technology and the lack of transparency have guaranteed the government control. This time round, it won’t ever be the case again. Tech giants will take over from now on. And to be honest, they’re both about the same — making decisions on what’s best for its own economy. As individuals, we need to take charge of our own protection and privacy. Read up more, do your own research and most importantly, learn to tell a legitimate source from satirical ones (so many older generations make that mistake).
Personally as a marketer in the crypto sphere, I am extremely delighted that Facebook is pushing for this to happen. It has brought about a new light and change in how the average person on the street views crypto. It was once viewed as a full-on scam, but now it’s more of a ‘maybe I should find out more’. This will certainly bring about mass adoption of crypto in 2020.
Ultimately and undoubtedly, the mainstream media and government will proceed to condemn Facebook’s subsequent actions; whether or not it’s crypto related. Well, all the talks from the media about data control, but condemning true transparency. I say it’s all hypocritical.
Here’s the trailer of The Great Hack if you’ve read the entire thing and still have no idea what I’ve been talking about. It’s now streaming on Netflix.