Imagine if an agency came into your neighborhood and starting inquiring about each person’s gender and race, religion, and moral beliefs, political affiliations, social likes and dislikes, who every person’s friends were, what they talked about, and the most intimate details of their relationships with loved ones. Then, after gathering these data and having them analyzed, the agency sold this information to businesses, foreign governments, anyone who may be interested in using it in any way they wished — with no questions asked.

Then, consider what would happen if some sinister players started using these data to incite violence, spread hatred, or rig elections. They are provided with enough information at a granular level to identify, say, Muslims with extreme views, or Christians who feel marginalized, or homemakers unhappy with their marriage. These troublemakers are also able to send false information to groups. They could do this at a very low cost, without having to disclose their identity or motivation.

I am describing what Facebook makes possible. The United Nations has accused Facebook of playing a “determining role” in stirring up hatred and genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar. “It has substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public,” said Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.

Facebook also enabled data firm Cambridge Analytica to acquire 50 million user profiles in the U.S. and use these to reportedly help the Donald Trump U.S….