The Great Hack
If you have been on social media over the last month, then you must have heard of a documentary called “The Great Hack.” The documentary covers the “Facebook-Cambridge Analytica” scandal. Let’s do a brief overview of the scandal before we take a look at how the blockchain technology can prevent this from ever happening again.
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Scandal
Aleksandr Kogan, a data scientist at Cambridge University, developed an app called “This Is Your Digital Life.” He then provided it to Cambridge Analytica, who in turn used it to survey Facebook users for academic research purposes. However, Facebook’s design allowed the app to not only collect the personal information of the users but all their connections as well. Because of this, Cambridge Analytica was able to get their hands on the personal data of a staggering 87 million Facebook users, of which 70.6 million were from the United States.
According to Facebook, the information stolen included one’s “public profile, page likes, birthday, and the current city.” Some of the users even gave them permission to access their News Feed, timeline, and messages. The data they ultimately obtained was so detailed that they were able to:
- Create psychographic profiles of the subjects of the data.
- The profiles created were detailed enough to suggest what kind of advertisement would be most useful to persuade a particular person in a specific location for some political event.
Politicians paid Cambridge Analytica handsomely to use the information from the data breach to influence the following events:
- 2015 and 2016 campaigns of United States politicians Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
- 2016 Brexit vote.
- 2018 Mexican general election, 2018, for Institutional Revolutionary Party.
Reactions to “The Great Hack”
Let’s go through social media and see what people are saying about “The Great Hack.”
Laurence Tribe, American legal scholar:
“The ongoing threat to our electoral systems and our national security and sovereignty is a clear and present danger. Watch Netflix “The Great Hack” ASAP”
Andrew Adonis, British Labour Party politician:
“Just watched The Great Hack on Netflix. @carolecadwalla is Woodward & Bernstein in one! Cambridge Analytica was hired to wage a giant, illegal ‘psy-ops’ campaign for the 2016 referendum & it’s amazing there haven’t yet been more prosecutions”
Gretchen Ong Ho, Filipino volleyball player and television host:
“Whoever wants to know how they are being manipulated online, watch #TheGreatHack on @netflix . If we don’t put limits on how our data is being used, who knows where the world will be tomorrow? S-c-a-r-y”
Elizabeth C. McLaughlin, Founder of Gaia Project for Women’s Leadership:
“If you have not watched The Great Hack on Netflix, go watch it immediately. It’s the story of FB and social and Cambridge Analytica, and it’s impossible to watch and NOT grasp that we are all being played by social media, & that democracy hangs in the balance.”
Richard Dawkins, Renowned British author:
“The Great Hack. Sensationally great film, only just out, on how Cambridge Analytica delivered the infamous 2016 votes by gathering & selling massive quantities of data so individually-tailored lies could be aimed at each floating voter (in swing states). Boycott Facebook!”
Christiane Amanpour, CNN anchor:
“Netflix doc “The Great Hack” is a must-watch: lays out the sorry tale of private data used without consent, and asks whether we can ever again have free and fair elections.”
David Hobby, American Photographer:
“The Great Hack examines Facebook/Cambridge Analytica’s role in Brexit/Trump. Scariest episode of Black Mirror you’ll ever watch. #NetflixRec”
Anne Thompson, Editor at IndieWire:
“The Great Hack Terrified Sundance Audiences, and Then the Documentary Got Even Scarier”
How the blockchain will prevent this
As the documentary points out, data is more valuable than oil and is the most expensive asset in the world today. This is why extra effort needs to be taken to safeguard and protect user data. Most of these companies can steal and manipulate user-data because of centralization. Simply put, these companies own all the data floating around in their respective platforms.
Decentralization is one of the core tenets of blockchain technology. No single entity owns all the data inside the blockchain, which is why blockchain-based systems are censorship-resistant. Plus, since the blockchain happens to be immutable as well, it is impossible to tamper any data once it has already been put inside the blockchain.
Several social media platforms are exploring the “blockchain option,” with VID being one of them. Not only does VID leverage the blockchain technology, but it also incorporates zero-knowledge encryption within its ecosystem, which imparts privacy to its users. Using zero-knowledge, users can safely allow the app to access their data, knowing that VID itself will not be able to access it. This will prevent VID from harvesting your data, giving you full ownership over it in the process. Your data is yours and yours alone.