The Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in 2018 when it was leaked that the company had collected personal data from over 87 million Facebook users to conceive multitargeted campaign strategies for their clients like the 2016 Leave campaign for Brexit or the election of Donald Trump in the US. Ever since, concerns about data protection and democratic manipulation have been voiced by the respective publics.
We shouldn’t boycott Facebook because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. A lack of data protection is common to most social media platforms and merely rejecting them is unrealistic. They are the public space for most of the online discourse that is taking place and thus it would be more constructive to find ways to resolve existing problems rather than passively retreating from a service. User initiatives or institutional interventions have shown to have a greater effect on companies like Facebook to increase their data protection and transparency of how personal data is processed. For instance, the European Union has made a first big step with the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that needs to be followed by all platforms operating in the member states of the EU. Another important step to make the issues public and to work on them were the public hearings of Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg before the US Senate. Another important factor is that Cambridge Analytica has been elevated to a big scandal even though data collection for the purpose of multitargeted advertisements and broader analysis is a common practice of all social media platforms that is taking place independently from the scandal. The scandal itself is only drawing attention to a bigger issue that inherently is a part of the social media platforms we operate on- We should focus on reforming the way they operate rather than retreating from them.
1) Facebook should be boycotted, not only because the Cambridge Analytics scandal that revealed the most controversial misuse of personal data but also because the exploitation and commercial processing of personal data inherently defines its business model. 2) Social media platforms are free in access, but the users are paying with their personal data without knowing how and to what ends it is used and by whom. Microtargeted advertisements and political campaigning creates echo chambers and filter bubbles that threaten democracy and a healthy public discourse.
Enjoying a convenient service weighs more than protecting personal data and its processing.
[P1] Reform is better than retreat.
Rejecting the premises
[P1] Retreating from a broken system is better than reforming it. [P2] Reform is not always an option.