Cambridge Analytica announced that it is going out of business because of a significant loss in clients following the Facebook data scandal, in which CA took information from Facebook users without their consent and used it to influence the 2016 American Presidential election. According to CMS Wire, Cambridge Analytica will be “immediately ceasing all operations” in the UK and US, insisting innocence in the whole debacle and pinning their downturn on an unfair amount of negative press. In an official statement, the data company wrote, “Over the past several months, Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of numerous unfounded accusations and, despite the Company’s efforts to correct the record, has been vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas.”
Data harvesting, technically, is not illegal, though the European Union introduced a measure called the General Data Protection Regulation that will go into effect on May 25th and will tighten up laws regarding the use of information regarding citizens.
Acting as a scapegoat for all the outrage regarding data breaching, Facebook has drawn a lot of attention away from other companies that have been involved in similar scandals. The Wall Street Journal reported that even Google may be using shadow profiles in the same way that Facebook was and has more of your personal information than anyone on the internet. Between the data collected from Maps, Email, and searches, Google can keep track of your every move by keeping records of basically everything you do.
Tim Lynch, president of VR gaming computer provider Psychsoftpc and alum of the Ph.D. in the psychology of computers program at Boston University, claims that there is no avoiding this kind of invasion of privacy. “Everybody is at it,” he said.“Twitter, Linkedin, Microsoft, insurance companies, supermarkets, drug stores, just about anybody with a web site or loyalty card or safe driver program or social media site. Microsoft collects data from Bing searches, Edge browser use and Cortana, Google collects data from searches, Chrome Browser use, Gmail, Google Apps, Android phones and Chromebooks.”
Data harvesting is no new concept. Brick-and-mortar stores started collecting customer data long before the internet was even a concept, so why is what these tech companies are doing such a big deal? “A supermarket won’t know my age, where I work, and who I talk to outside of the store,” says Chirag Shah, associate professor of information sciences at Rutgers University. “These things are possible to collect and/or learn in the online environment, often with very little effort. Recently, MoviePass CEO accidentally slipped out how it tracks users to collect their data beyond the app and hopes to make money off of it.”