Understanding the Cambridge Analytica data breach

By now, we’re assuming that you’ve heard all about the latest digital rights scandal that’s rocking the world – the Facebook Cambridge Analytica story. You’d be hard pressed not to hear about it, as the ramifications rock social, political and ethic circles everywhere and bring to life the terrifying power of the social media giant’s data trove. We thought you’d appreciate hearing our take on the whole matter, along with a tonne of helpful links to relevant info. So here it is.

We’ve been out in the media over the past week or so, commenting, explaining and critiquing Facebook’s response to this whole scandal – Stan Grant’s Matter of Fact on ABC TV – ABC World Today – 2SER Radio – 3CR Community Radio – Radio National Breakfast and more.

You can also read some thoughts from Digital Rights Watch board member David Paris on Green Agenda, or another take from us in Crikey (requires subscription). We’d also highly recommend this hot take from Scott Ludlam in the Guardian.

There’s certainly no end to the commentary on this matter, and the one thing we’re constantly asked is: what can people do to protect themselves from these manipulative tactics being used against them? It’s a hard one to answer, but here’s a few things you should look at:

You can start with this great guide from EFF on how to opt out of third parties accessing your data.
Then dive into a good overview from Motherboard of everything else you should be checking with your Facebook settings.
This article on the Verge is a good overview of how to continue to use Facebook, but in a way that hands over the least amount of personal info.
On that front, the awesome team at Mozilla have built a Firefox plugin that isolates your Facebook activity from all your other browsing, thus reducing the amount of personal info you share.
If you want to go the full nuclear option, here’s a good piece from Teen Vogue on how to delete your Facebook account.

Our main message throughout all of this is quite simple to say, but very hard to put in practice. We need an overhaul and a complete rethink of how we view data ownership and use. This is necessary not just to avoid situations like this current immediate scandal, but also to combat the neoliberal market-driven capitalist framing that allows for monolithic data harvesting machines such as Facebook to profit and thrive, and for the operations of companies such as Cambridge Analytica to benefit.

It’s important to remember that the perpetrators of this data mining and manipulation are not just shady consulting firms like Cambridge Analytica – it is also political parties, campaigning organisations, marketing firms and our own government agencies. It will take time to change this, and there will be huge push back from those that benefit from buying, using, selling and profiting from our data. But it’s a fight we’re willing to have.