Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Episode: Business without Boundaries

By Kunika Kanodia, Delhi Metropolitan Education, GGSIPU, Delhi.

(Currently pursuing LexQuest’s Online Certificate Course on Cyber Laws)

We are living in a world where there seems to be a humongous lacuna in knowledge, with relation to the use and misuse of our data, in other words, how data is made accessible and how that same data is (mis)appropriated. The lack of consumer awareness on this issue provides the companies and the governments an easy way to proceed with what they want to achieve, i.e., greater success in their respective fields of operation. The 21st century has witnessed such an explosive rise in the number of ways in which we use information that it is widely referred to as the information age.

Hot off the press accusations against social media websites and analytics organizations, incidentally ensure that the users reassess their Digital India dreams. There are allegations against entities for contemplating political strategies by using personal information stored with them. On March 27, Christopher Wylie, a former employee of a British Analytics and Political Consulting Firm, claimed that the Congress party was their Firm’s client in India. With this dilemma, we are also pushing ourselves in an avaricious chronicle about data security in India; whether it is in the control of Government authorities (like AADHAAR), Private Service Providers (such as OLA, Amazon) or Social Media entities (like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter). It is an undeniable fact that social media exercises a colossus degree of predominance, with inconsiderable access to user’s personal data.

The privacy of millions of people has been violated so far. The shady side of Cambridge Analytica’s data theft is, Psychographics Targeting, which facilitates in defining psychological traits of the coveted users (and that too without their consent!) by analyzing their likes and dislikes. Here, the organization put the science of psychographics in use, to read the minds of the voting population. The data cruncher firm used data driven methodology for testing the political bailiwick. The ongoing privacy wreck was a piece of cake owing to the access granted to third party applications, because they, in effect, didn’t have to put in much effort, to obtain personal information from user accounts.

The gravity of the breach of trust cannot be easily understood, unless one sees themselves as a commodity. Ever heard of human commoditization? We have traipsed into an epoch, where, in this maze called the “digital world”, we (read: our personal information) are being transacted around as an object. This data market is too vast and seems to be efficient enough, to help generate a good amount of wealth for the partakers. The information that is available to the agencies and companies includes but is not limited to, the users’ whereabouts (because of location sharing), their search history (used to determine the interests of a person by way of tracking internet usage), their health data (stored in detachable equipments like FitBit) and so on. The entities today have traversed such boundaries that they have made it impossible for us to exist without them. Humans have enslaved themselves to technology to such a great extent that every movement or action stored in the very technology at use, can be used against us, which, in a way, might pose a huge risk to our lives.

Organizations these days plan their cyber security apparatus based on the most recent incident of hacking, which means that only after a few such incidents have taken place, will the wheels be set in motion, for designing an effective policy framework to deal with and overcome the problems we are faced with today. By following the way of the ‘Incidence Centric Approach’, they fail to take into the account the deterrent factor of the ‘Threat Inflictor Approach’ (in cases of closed source data- Dark Web).

A progressive system to tackle this menace, should entail a combination of the aforementioned approaches. If no strict action is taken in favor of the users, the very notion of ‘Right to Privacy’ would diminish, and the concept of ‘Protection of Privacy’ would only be true in a utopian world. We should consider such incidents as a clarion call, for us to keep a check, if our privacy rights (and private information) are about to be used as a garb, by the dishonest and the corrupt. I, however, would like to believe, that we still have some rays of hope left, and we will be able to deal with such hurdles favorably.

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