This past year was a challenging one for officials with Facebook, as the website has come under fire for a number of privacy-related concerns. While the company adamantly states that they are working hard to protect our personal information, your online safety rests in your own hands.
On March 17, 2018, both The New York Times and The Guardian broke a story that would change the way many view Facebook and the world of social media as a whole. In it, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting and strategic communication firm behind Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was obtaining the personal data of Facebook users through a personality quiz app.
Why would a company like Cambridge Analytica want this information? They weren’t just collecting your name and birthdate, the information they collected using the quiz went a step further. The questions asked would provide information focused on the 5 main personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism), and this information was then used to create a psychographic profile.
A team of researchers out of Cambridge University explained the way that this works in a paper titled ‘Private Traits and Attributes Are Predictable From Digital Records of Human Behavior’. They explained that it “can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender.”
It was an eye-opener for users around the globe, suddenly aware of the amount of information contained within our social media profiles, and how easily that information can be obtained through a single app. This is especially true considering the fact that so many of us will ‘opt-in’ without taking the time to read through or consider what we are consenting to. In light of these concerns, it is more important than ever to take steps to keep yourself safe online.