#DeleteFacebook. This hashtag has exploded this week all over social media. Perhaps, a notable contributor to this hashtag would be Whatsapp co-founder, Brian Acton. As a side note, Whatsapp was sold to Facebook for 19 billion USD in 2014. As per latest news, Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur has deleted Tesla and SpaceX pages on Facebook amid this data privacy scandal.
The scandal began with the revelation about how a London-based Data Analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, harvested personal data belonging to 50 million American users who did not provide consent or had any information regarding the data mining. Data mining is the process of sorting through large data sets to identify patterns and establish relationships to solve problems through data analysis. The way of acquiring this information is said to be a violation of the social network’s rules.
Cambridge Analytica used the data to map profiles of users and friends, which were utilised to create targeted political ads in the UK Brexit referendum campaign and Trump’s team during the 2016 US elections. Britain’s Channel 4 News also reported that Cambridge Analytica secretly stage-managed Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaigns in the hotly contested 2013 and 2017 elections. The firm proceeded to deny the report.
Why should we care?
So we all know that the protection and security of personal information is easily compromised. Facebook data is being sold all around the world. On top of this, with unethical corporate practices, it has become very difficult to protect information. And this doesn’t just apply on an individual level. The risk is huge at an organisational level and even at a national level. As shown above, even elections can be tampered with, due to the kind of power such data possesses. Systems are easily hacked into and despite governmental securities in place, it is impossible to protect against every threat.
Remember the cyber attack on Singapore last year? During the second week of May, The “WannaCry” worm affected several malls’ systems like Tiong Bahru Plaza and White Sands Mall. This is also why we now all use the compulsory 2 Step Verification (2FA) system for all VJC gmail accounts as part of new security measures. We are really not detached from this situation.
Courtesy of The Straits Times: A digital display at Tiong Bahru Plaza shows a ransomware message. PHOTO: REDDIT
In June 2017, NUS and NTU system networks were hit by sophisticated cyber attacks. Social media accounts are constantly being hacked everyday. Our information is constantly compromised. Every snippet of data is utilised and honestly, it is up to us to make sure that our personal information is secure. Besides hacking threats, identity theft is also a big risk when we post too much information on social media accounts. Thieves use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people. Never post your full name, address, phone number, or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.
Food for Thought
Coming back to the original issue, Mark Zuckerberg finally broke his silence on the scandal. Facebook has apologised for the mistakes it has made in handing over data without proper protocol being followed. However, the damage has been done. Despite it only having affected American users, we cannot be naive to assume that our information is not under compromise. This issue affects every individual, community, organisation and government in the world. A few candid views on the issue are listed here.
“As more and more of our lives happen online, data protection and privacy are critical. This isn’t just important for select people in select countries. It’s important for people from all walks of life in every part of the world. Everyone deserves to be protected.”
Niyanta Chowdhury, 17S46