The entire fiasco about an advertising agency, Cambridge Analytica (CA), being able to work out Facebook algorithms to obtain user data has seen another turn with the Senate hearing of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The hearing, for which Zuckerberg prepared for extensively, went in his favour after the congressmen failed to question him in-depth about the platform. Their lack of understanding, partly because of Facebook’s non-disclosure of the complexity of their work, facilitated Zuckerberg to avoid in-depth questions about the amount of data they have on users and the access other platforms have to this data.
This highlights that legislation regarding how such media giants work and the amount of invasion of privacy that occurs will only be effective if Facebook itself facilitates the lawmakers into understanding what the platform is actually capable of doing. If the situation remains the same the scrutiny of those involved, the lawmaking regarding such platforms and the penalisation as a result of crimes of invasion of privacy will remain at the desired surface of the company; which again is problematic for the audience.
We have already witnessed the strength of advertisers who used this data in the Trump election campaign. And this is just one company which has come forward with the claims. There is still uncertainty if many more exist. And we have already seen the results of such manoeuvres going beyond the United States of America (USA). We have seen user data been misused in India, Myanmar and Italy. Companies involved recognise the power of this data and have used it in election campaigns to influence the voters based on information they have about them.
It is also a time for the US authorities to reflect on how they could have helped prevent the situation. Allowing such mega platforms to have monopoly in the system and not inform their users about the mishap until absolutely necessary shows the lack of expansion of the legislative system and the failure of the lawmakers to take into account the technological advancements.
Pakistan is also near the end of a term, and general elections are the time when the crowds are charged. If these companies have managed to infiltrate systems around the world, one does wonder how much influence it will have here. It only goes to show the lack of control people have within their own systems and how companies exploit the innocence of their customers.