Here is my digital life
Analytica shmytica Based on our available records, neither you nor your friends logged into “This Is Your Digital Life.” As a result, it doesn’t appear your Facebook information was shared with Cambridge Analytica by “This Is Your Digital Life.”
Well, that’s a relief. Arts DEVO has absolutely nothing to worry about!
Not that I was actually worried. As a drooling meat sack in a post-human world where digital information is mined and traded in volumes and at speeds beyond my ability to process, I long ago gave up any delusions of privacy. I assume that all corporations, multiple governments and a couple of 19-year-olds in Kazakhstan know my credit card numbers and that my poodle Honey is a sugar-booger. And the revelation that some super-rich people spent millions of dollars to run our “likes” through their profiling algorithms elicited little more than a: “Well, yeah.”
It’s especially unsurprising that the mined data obtained by British political consultants Cambridge Analytica came via Facebook. That’s what Facebook is: a service offered to users in exchange for their “non-personally identifiable” data being used to sell targeted ads. Mark Zuckerberg’s entire business model is built on that arrangement, with 98 percent of revenues in 2017—just under $40 billion—coming from selling digital advertising. Whether you read the terms of service (for Facebook and many of the third-party apps you use) or not, you agree to be sold (and sold to) when you sign up.
And, as all the cameras were on Senate hearings in D.C. this week, where Zuckerberg offered his mea culpas for Cambridge Analytica as well as the social-media disinformation campaign waged by Russian operatives during the last presidential election, it was fascinating the degree to which Facebook users have been left out of the conversation in the data-mining debacle. Don’t we bear the bulk of responsibility for willfully opening up our lives to constant intrusion? We enjoy the convenience of the platform and the apps, populate Facebook with details about our lives and the lives of everyone close to us, and then act surprised when the site does what it said it would do?
Don’t get me wrong, I know that Cambridge Analytica is shady. And its procurement of Facebook data obtained from another party—the This Is Your Digital Life app—in order to target potential voters in the recent presidential primaries (on behalf of Ted Cruz) and the presidential race (for Donald Trump) is as troubling as Facebook’s negligence in ensuring that its clients wouldn’t operate outside of the scope of the agreement—including allowing the data of unsuspecting friends of the 300,000 who signed up for the app to be mined, up to 87 million total. But if we truly value privacy over convenience and connection, maybe we shouldn’t offer a public company a moment-by-moment account of our personal lives.
Personally, I wouldn’t care if info about my Facebook activity was shared with Cambridge Analytica. (I’m much more concerned about Russian troll farms and using free Wi-Fi at the coffee shop.) I also don’t care that my data was used to target me for ads by several Republican political candidates in Texas, the Nuclear Energy Institute, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Washington Post, California WorldFest and Shaquille O’ Neal. I downloaded an archive of my Facebook account, and included is a list of the entities that have recently targeted people with my interests and attributes. Also included is a list of keywords associated with my account, and a sampling does paint a pretty accurate picture: male, mammal, emotion, David Lynch, newspapers, Andrew W.K., Sonic Youth, ESPN, Sierra Nevada Brewing, electric guitar, cheese, Mexican cuisine, Bernie Sanders, huevos, DEVO.
And I’m not too worried about Shaq knowing that there’s a cheese-eatin’ mammal living in Chico, even if it means I have to scroll past a few Krispy Kreme ads to get to the day’s NBA scores.