Over the past several days, lawmakers and pundits have professed shock and anger over the actions of Trump campaign contractor Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, in scraping loads of personal data from Facebook. Many of these criticisms and attacks assume that the issue is unique and aberrant. But in reality,
But should anyone really be surprised that Facebook allowed access to the personal data of 50 million people to outside firms? After all, Facebook has been selling such access to advertisers for many years — and no one forces users to provide the data in the first place. Of all Cambridge Analytica’s alleged sins, the data grabbing may be the least of all.
Facebook remains one of the most valuable companies in the world. Where, we might ask, is that value derived? After all, its 1.4 billion daily active users pay nothing for access to the platform, no matter how much they use it. It’s free from top to bottom. The money comes from ads. And Facebook’s entire advantage in selling ads is that because its user base is so big, it can promise advertisers the ability to target virtually any demographic group it wishes.