Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln

 

Date of this Version

2019

Abstract

In 2018, it became public knowledge that millions of Facebook users’ data had been harvested without their consent. At the heart of the issue was Cambridge Analytica (CA) which in partnership with Cambridge researcher, Aleksandr Kogan harvested data from millions of Facebook profiles. Kogan had developed an application called “thisisyourdigitallife” which featured a personality quiz and CA paid for people to take it. The app recorded results of each quiz, collected data from quiz taker’s Facebook account such as personal information and Facebook activity (e.g., what content was “liked”) as well as their Facebook friends which led to data harvesting of about 87 million Facebook profiles. The researcher then passed on this data to CA, which then used an algorithm that enabled them to psychologically profile people based on their Facebook interactions. Donald Trump had hired CA as a part of his 2016 Presidential election strategy. In order to deliver pro-Trump materials to individuals online, CA targeted individuals with a lesser known Facebook feature called “dark post” that contains personalized ads that are visible only to targeted individuals.CA consciously exploited fears of individuals with targeted advertising based on their personality profiles. The use of highly personalized ads made them vulnerable to Trump’s messages that compelled them to vote for him. This digital onslaught played a significant role in Trump’s victory over Hilary Clinton. This article will review how CA was able to harvest users’ personal data and what were its repercussions.

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