Personally, I think there is nothing better than reading or watching a true-life mystery story, and Cambridge Analytica possessed all the elements and cloak and dagger qualities to create an underhanded story of mystery. The major difference between a true-life mystery of the past and the digital world is the new paradigm created by social media. In actuality, it turned out that anyone who was a member of Facebook during the timeline of the incident was a part of the true-life Cambridge Analytica story!(Channel 4 News, 2018) Like a true-life riddle, the mystery is solved, and the answers are given. However, when the web of lies surrounding a person becomes so complex, where does one begin? Carole Chandler started with connecting Facebook to Cambridge Analytica and got abused for doing so.(Cadwalladr, no date a) I remember the ‘Airplane’ movie clip edited to incorporate Carole Chandler’s face. I remember being horrified when I viewed this adapted viral video of a woman being abused and mocked for expressing concern and speaking the truth. How could this be considered humorous in 2016! When I watched ‘The Great Hack’ on Netflix(The Great Hack | Netflix Official Site, no date), I started to understand where this abusive viral clip could have come from. In my opinion, everyone working with Cambridge Analytica was evil, money hungry, unethical, and truly slimy characters, even the Whistle blower Christopher Wylie looked like a man with a chip on his shoulder(Hern, 2018). When you watch the ‘Big Hack’, you cannot help but feel that the main clients of Cambridge Analytica’s ‘Trump’s presidential campaign’ and Nigel Farage’s ‘Leave EU’ campaign were just as vicious and unethical. ‘Peas in a pod’ some would say! When Chandler gave her analysis of the Brexit campaign, she explained how digital campaigns are not transparent enough when it comes to our Democratic vote. These powerful media platforms like Facebook only respond to the law when the Parliament is forced to do so, leading digitally illiterate government officials to open an inquiry into these social platforms, resulting in Social Media CEOs answering inane questions. And all of this results in a manipulation of society that we cannot wind back the clock on.
Chandler explained how Britain capped the amount of money candidates could spend in a general election because of the coerced practices of the pre digital era, ‘these laws don’t work anymore…We are what happens to a western democracy when a hundred years of electoral laws are disrupted by technology’(Cadwalladr, no date b). Chandler humanely pleas with the Silicon Valley super giants ‘This technology that you have invented has been amazing. But now it’s a crime scene’(Cadwalladr, no date c) only to be ignored and sneered at by the social elite as they receive a few million into their offshore accounts with no accountability to the devastation of society that they have created.
In fact, the chaos the digital PR companies caused was expressed in an article written by Devjyot Ghosal(Ghoshal, no date). Ghosal pointed out that 100 elections in over 30 countries spanning five continents was witness to this devastation, and these figures are from the self-proclaimed track record of ‘SCL Elections’, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. They targeted voters they named ‘The Persuadable’ were people sitting on the fence and could be manipulated into a vote by using information harvested by bespoke designed algorithms. They could target these ‘Persuadable’ in Swing states and fill their news feeds with false news. And again, in the Channel 4 documentary ‘Trump Campaign Strategy’ we can view how millions of black Americans were deterred from voting in 2016 elections. The Trump administration hired Cambridge Analytica to manipulate this demographic in swing states. (Channel 4 News, 2018)
After watching and reading many articles on the subject, I believe society must stop viewing the internet world as a fictional story and start processing laws that suit the ethics of the true crime committed. I commend Tim Bernes Lee and John Bruce for trying to solve the problems by forming their new initiative self-preservation data company Inrupt (hopefully it is not 20 years too late)(Inrupt’s John Bruce “The web we could have”, no date). I have questioned will this programme ‘Solid’ work? I don’t know, even with the best intentions will we be able to create Pod security strong enough to combat the massive world of Cybercrime. If human data has become as valuable as Cambridge Analytica has apparently made it, would this not attract super hackers? In an interview with Danny Vale co-founder John Bruce explained how he worked in MIT to create a programme called ‘Solid’. Solid would allow every person to have a pod, cash for data, or you might have to hire a financial company to look after it. Inrupt are ready to bring this new idea to the world, John Bruce said Tim Bernes Lee had a vision for the World Wide Web, ‘imagine a world where we own our own data…and works for me…and it doesn’t require an overhaul of the web’(Solid, no date). Bruce explains how Powerful search engines like Google could store your pod for you, but they can’t have access unless they have your full permission. Unfortunately, However Solid is not ready for day-to-day use, what they have done is looked at Google and Facebook DTP ‘data transfer project’ were part of the idea on how you could take the data and place it in your personal pod, and how you’ll opt for services like Facebook with a certain amount of data, so that the relationship could become more equitable.
Solid could work with National Health Service (NHS) and consolidate all your information into a personal Pod that could help not just yourself but solve medical mysteries across the world. Every day the average person may be giving away data for several reasons, but at present we cannot retrieve our data or even receive answers on how our data is being used. The Data Pod could be used to look after your information and prevent future Cambridge Analytica’s from selling your data to manipulate a democratic vote. Only a few great minds are working for Inrupt, but the Open-Source community is working on these ’Solid’ like applications. Massive organizations are starting to embrace this ‘Solid’ theology. As the online public gain knowledge on how their data is being misused to benefit unethical causes, maybe then Solid will have a chance of success for everyday use.
VP of Trust and Digital Ethics at Inrupt, joined Damian Collins in a podcast and expressed that society have an analogy that sharing knowledge could solve problems.(‘Episode 22: Davi Ottenheimer’, 2020) The pandemic is accelerating this idea with the invention of COVID-19 trackers Apps; however, some people are sceptical and are not sharing their data and will avoid downloading tracker apps.. I asked myself if I could control my data would I have downloaded the Covid app? I suppose I cannot answer this question yet, however I do know once bitten twice shy! Davi Ottinmer, explains how we are going to be able to withdraw our data from a company when we want to. The idea of the power ‘off’ button and companies not being able sell your personal data without changing the world wide web could be revolutionary and beneficial for us all.
No one can really predict how this digital true-life mystery will end. One thing we do know, is most of us share data online that can be converted into profile information that can be used to manipulate society and create humanitarian problems. We do not know, how or where our personal data is going to be used to influence our future choices. In my opinion, Inrupt’s ‘Solid’ data idea might just have to work because at present we are all characters in this ongoing saga that could see anyone of us inadvertently make an unethical decision that could create severe consequences for generations to come.
Cadwalladr, C. (no date a) Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/carole_cadwalladr_facebook_s_role_in_brexit_and_the_threat_to_democracy (Accessed: 21 December 2020).
Cadwalladr, C. (no date b) Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/carole_cadwalladr_facebook_s_role_in_brexit_and_the_threat_to_democracy (Accessed: 21 December 2020).
Cadwalladr, C. (no date c) Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/carole_cadwalladr_facebook_s_role_in_brexit_and_the_threat_to_democracy (Accessed: 15 December 2020).
Channel 4 News (2018) Cambridge Analytica Uncovered: Secret filming reveals election tricks. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpbeOCKZFfQ (Accessed: 14 January 2021).
‘Episode 22: Davi Ottenheimer’ (2020) Infotagion, 10 July. Available at: https://infotagion.com/podcast/episode-22-davi-ottenheimer/ (Accessed: 21 December 2020).
Ghoshal, D. (no date) Mapped: The breathtaking global reach of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, Quartz. Available at: https://qz.com/1239762/cambridge-analytica-scandal-all-the-countries-where-scl-elections-claims-to-have-worked/ (Accessed: 21 December 2020).
Hern, A. (2018) ‘Cambridge Analytica: how did it turn clicks into votes?’, The Guardian, 6 May. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/may/06/cambridge-analytica-how-turn-clicks-into-votes-christopher-wylie (Accessed: 18 December 2020).
Inrupt’s John Bruce “The web we could have” (no date). Available at: https://play.acast.com/s/dannyinthevalley/johnbruce (Accessed: 18 December 2020).
Solid (no date). Available at: https://inrupt.com (Accessed: 18 December 2020).
The Great Hack | Netflix Official Site (no date). Available at: https://www.netflix.com/ie/title/80117542 (Accessed: 21 December 2020).