On the 20th of January, Donal Trump was inaugurated as the United States’ 45th President. Leading up to that day was an excruciating Presidential campaign. Wherein Hillary Clinton lost to Trump on the basis of electoral votes. Even though Clinton was ahead by 2.1% in popular votes, she conceded the election on the 9th of November. Ever since his election, Donal Trump and his Presidential campaign have come under a lot of scrutinies.
A few weeks ago, the Justice Department indicted 13 Russian nationals and 3 companies for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The Russians stole the identities of American citizens and posed as political activists to deviate the public opinion against a certain Presidential candidate. However, there was no accusation that President Trump or his associates were knowingly part of the conspiracy.
And now, a British analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica has come under the radar. It has been accused of illegally capturing data of 50 million Facebook users for target-based advertising during the Presidential campaign. Apparently, Cambridge Analytica performed work for the campaign of President Donald Trump and made ads for the Defeat Crooked Hillary Facebook page.
Worth noting that that the page was run by the Make America Number One super PAC (Political Action Committee). Co-incidentally, both the Cambridge Analytica and Make America Number One financed by Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who backed Donald Trump in the general election.
The question arises then, how did a company get hold of personal information of 50 million Facebook users? Illegally, for starters. Apparently, Aleksandr Kogan, a University of Cambridge psychology professor got permission from Facebook to harvest information from users who downloaded his app, thisisyourdigitallife. But, users who downloaded the app gave the professor the permission to collect data on their location, their friends and even the content they had liked. Krogan, then, passed on this data to Cambridge Analytica which violated Facebook’s rules.
A recent report on Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica has intensified the allegations on the firm. A British television channel aired a report where he is seen discussing potential bribery and entrapment of politicians. However, Cambridge Analytica has since stated that:
The report was edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent the nature of those conversations.
That stance did not stick for too long as Alexander was suspended by the company on 20th March 2018. It is worth noting that Christopher Wylie, a former contractor of Cambridge Analytica is the whistleblower. He shared this information with the New York Times and The Observer. Facebook has since suspended his account.
— Christopher Wylie (@chrisinsilico) March 18, 2018
In a nutshell, all of this corruption was fueled by the availability of such damming data. After the recent accusations of Russian nationals using Facebook to sway voters, this new accusation is much bigger. It has been revealed that since the story broke, Facebook has lost about US $60 Billion in market cap. Also, the hashtag #DeleteFacebook has been trending elsewhere.
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