Facebook got a lot of criticism over the Cambridge Analytica breach, and Zuckerberg vowed to do better in protecting users’ privacy in a full-page ad. But this is not the first time political campaigns have used social media user data during elections — the only difference was that millions of users did not even know the platform was harvesting their data and using it to target them for political purposes.
The bigger problem is that what happened to Facebook was inevitable. Sure, Facebook as a closed system is especially harmful. A system that can see your current interactions, has control over the content it shows you, and can measure the results of those things is a perfect fit for human behavior optimization.
What I’m saying is that even if we did not have the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the fact would remain that social channels are harvesting our data. Take Twitter, for instance. You can easily see any likes and interactions people have had — that data is open to everyone. Use the Twitter API and you can automate its collection. Connect it to IBM Watson or some other enterprise service and you will instantly get access to thousands (if not millions) of records. And this data is not private by any means.
The ingenious idea is to build a psychological profile based on the “likes” of users, then learn who to target and how to target them. Once you have built this profile, you can use it any way you please.
The cycle does not need to be rooted in Facebook — one could build a profile from Twitter data and use that in Facebook ads. You only need the profile to train the AI, and…