Monday, 23 april 2018 | Brenda Rodríguez López
Every day, and often involuntarily, we share information in social media about where we are, what our interests are, who our friends are, what our musical preferences are, where we spend our spare time, what we spend the money on,... This information is as valuable and coveted as sensitive and vulnerable. The data is becoming a precious asset and can change the course of our destiny. Scandals like the one of Ashley Madison or the most recent one of Cambridge Analytica reopen the debate about the Big Data phenomenon against the limits of privacy. Do we know what data we are sharing? Who is watching it over? In whose hands does it finish? How can it be used?
The large volume of data available on the Net, their heterogeneity and complexity, and the improvement in the ability to be quickly processed and analyzed have been reflected in the birth of a new business in which our most bland information becomes a star product. Brands can get to know through these data what our preferences and consumption patterns are, and, in this way, offering us just what we want, at the time that we need it and in a way that it is adapted to our tastes and emotions. At first glance, it might seem that both consumers and firms benefit in a balanced way from this situation. However, not all the members on the Net perform a fair play. Our privacy could be in check. How far are we willing to share data? How far are we willing to obtain it to get to know our target better?
A scandal with many numbers
Citizens become a constant source of information. We spend most of the time connected to the Internet. Although we are not always aware of it, our data is being registered at all time. This data is vulnerable and as difficult to guard and protect as it is to stop producing it. One of the last subjects who verify the scope that can have this premise has been the own Mark Zuckerberg, Founder, Owner, President and Delegate Adviser from Facebook. He has been recently called to testify in The US Senate and The US House of Representatives, after the outbreak of the scandal of "The Cambridge Analytica Files".
The reason for this call is dispelling the doubts about how the British consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, could have accessed to the data of about 87 million users of the platform through an application. Like other similar firms, the mission of Cambridge Analytica was to analyze data and segment it into groups and then be used by companies, advertisers or other organizations. In this case, newspapers like The New York Times and The Guardian published that the leak would have allowed the company to exploit the private activity on social networks of a large percentage of the US electorate in order to develop techniques that would consolidate their work in the 2016 campaign of the President Donald Trump or predicting and influencing the voter’s choice at the ballot box. This situation has caused a crisis of trust on the social network and the consequent reopening of the debate on the data use and the limits of privacy.
Games, applications, tests, surveys or free wifi access portals. The data can be collected through a multitude of tools, at least, initially with our consent. Of course, the Cambridge Analytica example is at one extreme, but do we really know who has our data? What is it being used for? It is necessary to establish new "firewalls" that protect users and guarantee the proper use of the data.