Once upon a time in 2007, in one of the cozy rooms (unlike ours XD) of Cambridge university , a psychology student David Stillwell, who was doing his PhD in the process of decision-making, launched a mobile app called myPersonality. The app was just supposed to be a fun side project which took real psychometric tests(tests which are a standard and scientific method used to measure individuals’ mental capabilities and behavioural style ) and obtain their results instantly.Sounds all jolly and gala right?? You must be wondering, what’s the role of this sweet logo harmless app in one of the biggest data scandals of this decade, right?? Just hang in here with me and I promise I’ll take you out from oblivion.
Alright so first things first, The title XP
FACEBOOK DATA BREACH SCANDAL , OR IS IT ?
So all of this started way back in 2007 with the humble beginning of myPersonality. Even it’s creator was unaware that his app will render data of around 3 million users ( you might be one of them 😛 ). Fast forward seven years , 2014 marked the entry of the protagonist of this blog, Strategic Communication Laboratories ( wait shouldn’t this be Cambridge Analytica). The funny part is an employee of this company, was turned down by David Stillwell (owner of myPersonality) when he was presented a collaboration offer. What is even funnier is that Aleksandr Kogan, accepted this offer and made the app “This Is Your Digital Life” with similar features and similar data scraping technology ( I’ll explain this too, wait )which went on to gather the data of around 80 million users ( That’s huge )
Ultimately, Kogan’s app, “This Is Your Digital Life ,” gained 270,000 users. That’s a paltry number in terms of successful internet apps, but in terms of the spiralling network (basically gathering the information of the mutual friends too) trees each of those individual users gave Kogan access to, it was gigantic. Kogan marketed that data to SCL, which created a US-based company for the sole purpose of using all this research data, which was named Cambridge Analytica ( you guessed it right XD ). Now some of you must be wondering what’s so special about “data” here ( and why this guy hasn’t brought Trump’s name till now ), well read these,
1. Almost every advertisement you see on the internet is specially custom made for you ( such royal feels 😛 ) and this is possible only because of the internet trail and the cache that you leave behind in the previous session.
2. This data led to “psycho-graphic” profiling, which means that they used the data collected online to create personality profiles for voters which helped them to determine which messages were resonating where and then shape Donald Trump’s ( basically Trump paid them money to work for him ) travel schedule around it. So, if there was a spike in clicks on an article about immigration in a county in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, Trump would go there and give an immigration-focused speech and in an election which was this close, everything mattered.
You remember the employee which was turned down by the owner of “myPersonality”, his name is Christopher Wylie ( Did I tell you that he was fired )This guy on March 17,2018 blew the cover of this whole scandal. He was in touch with The Guardian ( British daily newspaper ) for one whole year and helped them to gather evidence too. After this exposure, Facebook lost around 50.2 Billion dollars in single day.
Was it really a scandal ??
The main question is, how did Cambridge got the data. Unfortunately ( for Facebook ) or fortunately ( for Trump.. sshhhh !! ) , Facebook’s API allowed third-party developers ( the owner of the app “This is Your Digital Life”) to collect data not only from users of their apps but from all of the people in those users’ friends network on Facebook. This access came with the stipulation that such data couldn’t be marketed or sold — a rule Cambridge Analytica promptly violated. So technically no hacking was done, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked. So I’ll leave the conclusion up to the
P.S – Just for the sake of fun I’ll leave some of the memes which I
encountered while researching about this topic ( no need to say thanks
:P, always welcome )￼