It is not, will there be another Cambridge Analytica…rather, where are they and how many are there now?
There have been many many articles written on this subject, and documentaries made. It will sell until the cows come home for one reason. It is about you. Attempts have been made, some more for appearance, in assessing the dangers of another US election being affected. Many meetings have been held at senior levels and suggestions made as to how we can avoid it happening again.
Here’s one hypothesis. It will never stop happening. It is far too late for that. Cruz was the loss leader, the one the pushers used to get the US hooked on the data drug, and the Trump administration piled in. The relationship between money, greed and power (and therefore information) has probably been around since the beginning of time. Why on earth would we be surprised if this continued, and not only continued, but got more sophisticated? Julian Wheatmand, the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica was recently quoted as saying “I’m pretty sure nobody’s thinking of trying to start it up again under a different guise”. The word that stands out there is “pretty”. Come on Julian, who are you trying to kid?
It is possible of course, and highly likely, that these models were conceived well before CA and in the rooms of some departments in the Government machine somewhere. Before these revelations came out, of course it was Snowden who revealed the existence of mass surveillance on its citizens. So what is the difference? Were they not doing essentially the same thing as the Government? All that happened is it moved horizontally to CA in the private sector. Which has been the process seen in the US for several years…take PIA’s as an example. The US Government is tendering out its business which provides it with some plausible deniability. That has to have been the biggest lesson learnt from the Snowden/Assange revelations surely? It has been a steady move over the last few years, and indeed, it is nothing new. Also, one would be naïve to assume this is simply as US (Western) phenomenon. Here’s the question. Is there actually anything fundamentally wrong with it? So what if Facebook or CA have 5000 data points and know your personality profile and carry out AI based Psychological Evaluations.. Every man and his dog nowadays sees a shrink or does an online psychology quiz, anxious to find out which box they fit in to. It’s part of our society now. Everything we are seeing now is egocentric and very much with “me” in mind. How many followers I have, what my views are , here’s how I do things or I walked 5200 steps today. Couple that with the huge technological moves which are creating the individuals as their own transactional powerhouses capable of remarkable things such as international money payments on their smartphones, access to blockchain technology, IOT and 5G. At the same time, and rather ironically, these same individuals are becoming myopic and less able to spot what is going on around them. The self is now much more important that the society. These are the more concerning questions. As far as the likes of Facebook or CA is concerned, what is the difference between what CA did, to what a political campaigner or marker researcher does by standing on the high street with a clipboard asking questions or when post comes through the door with a survey attached. The internet is now the high street. Twitter is the board at the local post office. The political campaigner that was once on the street now uses the full spectrum of social media. So, is there actually any difference? These people are not breaking into your homes and stealing your belongings. Some would say that netaphorically, they are. Those people may have life a little too comfortable and sit slighty to the left of reality. There does have to be a line however. The criminal line ie. Actual theft. But that is not the question being addressed here. Will this end simply because of the CA scandal, the Trump Impeachment and concerns of his involvement? Of course not. So, what is the likely outcome? Well, the problem as we have already learnt, with criminalizing something like this rather than regulating it, is that it can end up far more dangerous and cost people a lot more than money. Then it gets serious. Quite possibly,the answer is to create data as an actual commodity rather than simply information that is changing hands in relatively disorganized informal ways. So, maybe opening up the debate on regulation through valuing private data is an option. It is certainly something we have carried out a great deal of our own work on, and it has legs. The exact structure and how the data is valued (priced) is key, and having exchanges of some sort to ensure basic market forces are in operation is also a big task. Even with those mechanisms in place we are still likely to see firms operating independently, but only in the same way as companies and businesses still operate now that are not privatized. Markets also have corruption and price manipulation to deal with which is what the regulatory bodies and specialist legal and law enforcement teams in each nation is designed to address. Insider dealing for example will always be a problem and of course money laundering. In essence what we are acknowledging is that no system is perfect in this scenario, but one will certainly cause less damage to society than the other. It is worth considering no? Full Report