More than one billion people are active on Facebook. That’s a significant percentage of the entire world’s population. Until now, these users clicked boxes and scrolled past user agreements and allowed the company to collect data from them as they moseyed around the internet.
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal from last week, consumers are finally taking notice of just how much information Facebook has collected about them. My question is simple: Why now?
I suppose the fact that Cambridge Analytica was using the data to influence elections is a good enough reason for most. Indeed, the means by which Cambridge Analytica obtained Facebook’s data is up for debate. Facebook claims that it wasn’t hacked but that the data was only supposed to be used for academic purposes and should never have gotten into the hands of Cambridge Analytica. The company claims they stopped using Facebook data after realizing what they were doing was effectively against the law.
Why are we surprised by this?
Facebook is a billion dollar company that doesn’t have a fee for subscription. Where did we think their money was coming from? When we let them into our apps, clicked the terms and conditions boxes, posted about our favorite products and companies, told them where we work, live, and vacation, what did we think Facebook was doing with the information?
This is the era of big data and analytics. In order to analyze, you need massive amounts of data. Facebook committed the sin of being too good at collecting and analyzing information. Did they have some shady practices? Yes, and they’re coming to light now. But make no mistake, we told them they could collect the vast majority of the data they stored.
Facebook isn’t the only company with our data. Amazon has plenty. Apple. Microsoft. Twitter. Even our favorite news sites collect our data and sell it to third parties. We’ve allowed these practices to occur because the price of admission is the data itself. Not money, just information.
If you want to find someone to blame for this scandal, look in the mirror. We’re not mad that Facebook collects our data and companies like Cambridge Analytica use it to manipulate us. We’re mad that we were too preoccupied to realize these companies are doing it.
So I don’t understand why consumers are mad. I knew these things were happening. The experts I speak to all knew these things were happening. The information was readily available on the internet long before last week.
You shouldn’t be mad or surprised that elections were manipulated. That’s the price of admission for not paying attention for so long.