Cambridge Analytica Là Gì

Repercussions from the scandal swirling around the data analytics firm continue to be felt across the tech industry.

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Christopher Wylie's revelations about Cambridge Analytica and its use of Facebook data kickstarted a privacy reckoning that is still playing out across the tech industry.Jake Naughton/The Washington Post/Getty Images

On October 27, 2012, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote an email khổng lồ his then-director of sản phẩm development. For years, Facebook had allowed third-tiệc nhỏ apps khổng lồ access data on their users’ unwitting friends, và Zuckerberg was considering whether giving away all that information was risky. In his tin nhắn, he suggested it was not: “I’m generally skeptical that there is as much data leak strategic risk as you think,” he wrote at the time. “I just can’t think of any instances where that data has leaked from developer to lớn developer và caused a real issue for us.”

If Zuckerberg had a time machine, he might have used it to lớn go bachồng khổng lồ that moment. Who knows what would have happened if, baông chồng in 2012, the young CEO could envision how it might all go wrong? At the very least, he might have saved Facebook from the devastating year it just had.


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called khổng lồ testify before Congress in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.Win McNamee/Getty Images
But Zuckerberg couldn't see what was right in front of him—& neither could the rest of the world, really—until March 17, 2018, when a pink-haired whistleblower named Christopher Wylie told The New York TimesThe Guardian/Observer about a firm called Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica had purchased Facebook data on tens of millions of Americans without their knowledge to build a “psychological warfare tool,” which it unleashed on US voters to help elect Donald Trump as president. Just before the news broke, Facebook banned Wylie, Cambridge Analytica, its parent company SCL, & Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher who collected the data, from the platsize. But those moves came years too late and couldn't stem the outrage of users, lawmakers, privacy advocates, và truyền thông media pundits. Immediately, Facebook’s stock price fell và boycotts began. Zuckerberg was called lớn testify before Congress, & a year of contentious international debates about the privacy rights of consumers online commenced. On Friday, Kogan filed a defamation lawsuit against Facebook.

Wylie’s words caught fire, even though much of what he said was already a matter of public record. In 2013, two University of Cambridge researchers published a paper explaining how they could predict people’s personalities và other sensitive details from their freely accessible Facebook likes. These predictions, the researchers warned, could “pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life.” Cambridge Analytica's predictions were based largely on this research. Two years later, in 2015, a Guardian writer named Harry Davies reported that Cambridge Analytica had collected data on millions of American Facebook users without their permission, và used their likes lớn create personality profiles for the 2016 US election. However, in the heat of the primaries, with so many polls, news stories, & tweets to lớn dissect, most of America paid no attention.

The difference was when Wylie told this story in 2018, people knew how it ended—with the election of Donald J. Trump.


This is not to say that the backlash was, as Cambridge Analytica's former CEO Alexander Nix has claimed, some bad-faith plot by anti-Trumpers unhappy with the election outcome. There’s more than enough evidence of the company's unscrupulous business practices to warrant all the scrutiny it’s received. But it is also true that politics can be destabilizing, lượt thích the transportation of nitroglycerin. Despite the theories & suppositions that had been floating around about how data could be misused, for a lot of people, it took Trump’s election, Cambridge Analytica’s loose ties khổng lồ it, & Facebook’s role in it to lớn see that this squishy, intangible thing called privacy has real-world consequences.

Cambridge Analytica may have sầu been the perfect poster child for how data can be misused. But the Cambridge Analytica scandal, as it's been called, was never just about the firm và its work. In fact, the Trump campaign repeatedly has insisted that it didn't use Cambridge Analytica's information, just its data scientists. And some academics and political practitioners doubt that personality profiling is anything more than snake oil. Instead, the scandal và backlash grew to lớn encompass the ways that businesses, including but certainly not limited khổng lồ Facebook, take more data from people than they need, and give away more than they should, often only asking permission in the fine print—if they even ask at all.

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One year since it became front-page news, Cambridge Analytica executives are still being called to lớn Congress lớn answer for their actions over the năm nhâm thìn election. Yet the conversation about privacy largely has moved on from the now-defunct firm, which shut down its offices last May. That's a good thing. As Cambridge Analytica faded to lớn the background, other important questions emerged, lượt thích how Facebook may have given special data giao dịch khổng lồ device makers, or why Google tracks people's location even after they've turned location tracking off.


Alexander Nix and other former Cambridge Analytica executives are still being called lớn Congress over the 2016 election.Bryan Bedder/Getty ImagesThere has been a growing recognition that companies can no longer be left to lớn regulate themselves, và some states have begun to act on it. Vermont implemented a new law that requires data brokers which buy và sell data from third parties to register with the state. In California, a law is phối khổng lồ go into lớn effect in January that would, aý muốn other things, give residents the ability khổng lồ opt out of having their data sold. Multiple states have introduced similar bills in the past few months alone. On Capitol Hill, Congress is considering the contours of a federal data protection law—though progress is, as always in Washington, slow-going.

These scandals & blowbacks have badly bruised Facebook and arguably the entire tech industry. If Zuckerberg had trouble seeing the "risk" associated with sloppy privacy protections bachồng in 2012, they should be all too familiar to him now. Facebook faces a potential record fine by the Federal Trade Commission, and just this week news broke that the company is under criminal investigation for its data sharing policies.

At the same time, the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica flap has prompted Facebook to—at least in some respects—change its ways. Last week, in a hotly contested blog post, Zuckerberg claimed that Facebook’s future hinges on privacy. He said that Facebook will add end-to-kết thúc encryption to lớn both Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct as part of a grvà plan khổng lồ create a new social network for private communications.

Critics have sầu debated whether Zuckerberg finally has seen the light, or if he is actually motivated by more mercenary interests. Still, encrypting those chats would instantly enhance the privacy of billions of people's personal messages worldwide. Of course, it could also vì plenty of damage, creating even more dark spaces on the mạng internet for misinformation khổng lồ spread & for criminal activity to lớn fester. Just this past week, one of Zuckerberg's most trusted allies, Facebook's chief sản phẩm officer Chris Cox, announced he was leaving Facebook, a decision that reportedly has a lot to bởi with these concerns.

A year after the Cambridge Analytica story broke, none of these questions about privacy has yielded easy answers for companies, regulators, or consumers who want the mạng internet khổng lồ stay convenient & không tính tiền, and also want control over their information. But the orkhuyễn mãi giảm giá at least has forced these conversations, once purely the domain name of academics và privacy nerds, inkhổng lồ the mainstream.

If only the world had seen it coming sooner.

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Issie Lapowsky is a senior writer for covering the intersection of tech, politics, & national affairs. Lapowsky covered startups & small business as a staff writer for Inc. magazine before joining, and before that she worked for the Thành Phố New York Daily News. Lapowsky received a bachelor’s degree from... Read more
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