The Short Version: Facebook & Cambridge Analytica

The Short Version: Facebook & Cambridge Analytica

The point of it all is to break down the headlines, determine why an issue is important, and reveal the best arguments on each side of the story.

Recently Cleo turned her attention to the nation’s Bitcoin. I know, what?  Today, more tech. Specifically Facebook’s now you see it, mostly you don’t data sharing policy. And she addresses the question: Should you be able to give away your friends’ data?

Note: If you have missed any of Cleo’s blogs, just go to our Home Page, type “The Short Version” into Search (magnifying glass icon) and poof, like magic, all her blogs will appear.

Cleo Constantine Abrams of “The Short Version” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

So it’s that feature of blockchain technology—the idea that it is a decentralized system—that earns most criticism and causes the most heated debate.

What’s happening?

You’ve probably seen the headlines: How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions. Facebook Ignites Debate Over Third-Party Access to User Data. Mark Zuckerberg Under Fire Over Data Controversy. 

Here’s what’s happening: Facebook’s lax data-sharing policies in 2015 exposed information about more than 50 million users to a researcher, who in turn shared it with political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Some of the story broke back in 2015, but it shattered this month when a former Cambridge employee, Christopher Wylie, shared internal company documents showing what happened.

This wasn’t a hack. The researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, built a quiz app that you could log into using Facebook. You’ve probably done that before. So you know that when you use Facebook Login, you share information from your account—your name, your email, etc. But in 2015, Facebook’s policies also allowed third party apps to collect information about your friends as well, even though they had never opted in. Though only 270,000 people actually used the app, Kogan (and Cambridge) got information on more than 50 million.

Facebook says Kogan broke their terms of service by sharing the data he gathered, and Cambridge broke the terms by keeping it. But up until that point, both had been following the rules.

Why is it important?

There’s a lot of hype around the “data machine” Cambridge built. Their goal was to develop psychographic profiles, to understand each person’s personality and to serve them ads they would most respond to. The firm sold itself by touting this method, first to Ted Cruz’ campaign and then to Donald Trump’s. But you should know that, despite the hype, it’s not clear this kind of targeting actually works. You can develop a psychological profile based on how a person behaves online, but the research is mixed on whether that profile is more useful than simple information like parents’ political orientation. And even when you know a personality type, it’s easy to get wrong which ads that specific person will like.

So the heart of this debate isn’t whether Cambridge Analytica did anything wrong (they did) or whether their psychographic targeting really influenced the election (we don’t know). It’s how a company like Facebook should be required to deal with data sharing.

Debate it

Should you be able to give away your friends’ data?

Continue reading here.

Why The Short Version on TIO?

About 10 ago, Telluride Inside…and Out began as a lifestyle webzine. Today, in the full knowledge that Telluride is a window on the world, we continue to bring the “zazz” (short for “pizzazz) of the region to a local, national, and global audience by covering everything from Telluride’s robust cultural economy – major events and festivals – to health and fitness and outdoor adventure. When Telluride travels, we write about places to go, people to meet too. (That’s part of the “Out” part of our handle, the other, obviously, Outdoors.)

And now, this weekly column, “The Short Version,” which offers simple summaries of issues of national and global importance.

“The Short Version” is written by Cleo Constantine Abram, the daughter of Telluride locals Eleni Constantine and Jonathan Abram (and therefore an honorary local and regular visitor) and a digital strategist.

Why “The Short Version”? Because, though we live in Shangri-La, our bubble is not impermeable and the rest of the world is only a click away. Because there is no inconsequential action; only consequential inaction. And because information is power in a moment so many of us are feeling powerless.

More about Cleo Constantine Abram:

Cleo Abram 2

Cleo grew up in Washington D.C., lives in New York City, and loves to visit her parents in Telluride. She authors “The Short Version,” a newsletter that explains each week’s most important issue and both sides of the debate around it.

Cleo is a digital strategist now working at Vox, a general interest news site for the 21st century. Its mission is simple: Explain the news. Politics, public policy, world affairs, pop culture, science, business, and more.

Cleo’s work focuses on ways to share, educate, and inform using online platforms. While in college at Columbia University, she guided the school’s entrance into online education through her role as the youngest elected representative to the Columbia Senate, which makes university-wide policy.

She continued her work on online education at TED-Ed, the educational branch of the nonprofit, building new programs and online tools to support high school teachers worldwide.

Continuing her work with TED, Cleo founded and led an early TEDx conference, the organization’s community-specific series.

Cleo has also studied video storytelling at Columbia Journalism School.

Most importantly, Cleo loves to ski.


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.