Recently, news broke that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting and data-mining firm founded by the ever-nefarious Steve Bannon, collected data from 50 million Facebook users to psychologically profile and target voters on behalf of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
While the media outrage is legitimate, we must also remember that Barack Obama’s team accessed Facebook data in 2008 and 2012 to much praise. Entire books were written about the Obama campaign’s genius use of voter data.
Instead of blaming one politician over another, however, we should look at the underlying problems with “big data” collection.
As Americans, we have fundamental rights to privacy and free speech. Big data tramples both rights. On the one hand, firms like Cambridge Analytica and companies like Facebook harvest our private data and personal profiles to specifically target us with advertisements, articles and memes.
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On the other hand, they use those targeted messages to reinforce our viewpoints, limiting what content we receive. This is social conformity and speech restriction. Instead of pointing fingers at our politicians for using big data, perhaps we should be demanding that our politicians rein it in instead?