News recently broke with reports claiming that Facebook data profiles were circulating through a personality app to a political analytics company called Cambridge Analytica. Although no one is sure how much, Cambridge Analytica helped Steve Bannon elect Donald Trump. The news has come following a year in which Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of investigations in both the U.S and the U.K.
A whistle-blower, Christopher Wylie, shared his view of the events in 2016 of how Facebook was hijacked and repurposed. At age 24, Wylie oversaw the beginning of the process where he worked to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of U.S. citizens and used their private, personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. These profiles were then used to target the psychological make-up of individuals using specific political ads. For instance, Cambridge Analytica had connected with WikiLeaks to help distribute Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails.
While Facebook officials in both the U.S. and U.K. refute these allegations claiming that Facebook never provided data to the company, Wylie asserts that he holds a paper trail proving that more than 50 million Facebook profiles had been harvested.
Following the flood of accusations and assertions, numerous people have called for users of Facebook to delete their accounts. However, when assessing the situation realistically, it seems that the company wouldn’t even notice. Currently, Facebook has more than 2.1 billion users, and due to the growth in developing countries, that number could reach 3 billion by 2020.
If we don’t delete our accounts, how are we going to make change happen? Maybe in the same way that Americans have always fought for change: through our power as citizens. In the U.S., more than 68% of American adults are using the social platform, according to the Pew Research Center. We must demand, as a collective, that regulators and legislators get more stringent on this company.
In the same way that the Department of Justice broke up AT&T (which limited the companies political power, unleashed creativity, improved phone service, and lowered prices), they could break up Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp allowing more competition and opportunities.
The best way that American citizens can curb the problems within and caused by Facebook is by collectively championing specific changes to our regulators and legislators and fellow citizens. Activism has and will continue to change the world. Deactivation blinds you from truth.