19/04/2021

Categories: Computing, Postgraduate

The Cambridge Analytica Scandal and What It Teaches Us

The Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal involved millions of Facebook users having their personal data compromised without their consent. The event, which caused public outrage has taught us a number of important lessons regarding data use and business analytics.

What Was The Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal

At the start of 2018, Facebook admitted that it had mishandled data from more than 50 million Facebook users. The data had been improperly obtained by Cambridge Analytica, a political data analytics firm.

However, this was just the start of it. A few months later and 50 million had quickly become 87 million, with the impact of the security incident being a lot bigger than anticipated. As a consequence, Facebook was slapped with a historically large fine of $5 billion from the Federal Trade Commission.

What did Cambridge Analytica do Wrong?

So, what exactly did Cambridge Analytica do to compromise these Facebook users? The company used an external app in 2015 to get information from more than 87 million users. The data was a personality quiz, which involved approximately 270,000 individuals being paid to take the quiz. Called thisisyourdigitallife, the quiz pulled in data from the users’ friends’ profiles as well, giving the company a monumental stash of data.

The data helped the company to build psychological profiles, as they were able to get the knowledge that included personal data on where the person lived, what pages they liked, and so on. This data was then deployed at a later date in political campaigns.

A Cambridge Analytica employee named Christopher Wylie confirmed the company’s activities:

"We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons."

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Lessons the Cambridge Analytica Scandal Taught us

Should you take any Degree in Data Technology or a Data Analytics Degree, the Facebook Cambridge Analytica incident is one you should certainly learn from, as it has taught us a number of important lessons about business analytics.

- More than cybersecurity is needed to protect data - If businesses decide to gather big quantities of consumer data, they need to be prepared to protect it in a number of ways. This includes safeguarding it from external hacking, as well as protecting it from misuse and internal temptation
- Transparency = trust - Whether it is a newsletter subscription or an online transaction, a privacy policy must accompany every submission form. Being clear and evident about data use is imperative in terms of building trust
- Misusing personal data is just as serious as a data breach, if not more so - Misusing data is arguably even worse for a business’ brand and reputation than a data breach. This is because the company has made a decision to use the data in an inappropriate or unsanctioned manner. This can make a massive difference to public opinion

Taking a Postgraduate Data Analytics & Technologies degree at the University of Bolton

Ensuring that businesses use data in the correct manner is one of the core things you will learn when participating in an MSc Data Analytics & Technologies degree at the University of Bolton.

Our inspiring and industry-engaged staff have strong connections with businesses and organisations across a number of industrial, commercial, and public sectors, providing you with amazing opportunities in terms of networking, joint projects, lectures, masterclasses in business analytics, and more. With all this to offer, alongside great facilities and superb student support it’s no wonder we’ve been voted No.1 for Student Satisfaction the past three years.*

Why not come and enjoy #UniAsItShouldBe by applying for a postgraduate Data Analytics degree at the University of Bolton?

To learn more about our courses and oiut supportive learning environment, you can reach us at enquiries@bolton.ac.uk or +44 (0)1204 900 600.

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