AN ACADEMIC who created an app which ‘harvested’ data from 50 million people now says he has been made ‘a scapegoat’ for the scandal of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.
The academic, Dr Aleksandr Kogan, completed work for Cambridge Analytica in 2014, but said he had no idea the data would be used for Donald Trump’s election campaign. He only wanted the data of 50 million people because he was interested in human behaviour in the abstract, without any political or financial motive.
Facebook says that Kogan violated the site’s policies by developing a personality survey called This is Your Digital Life where 270,000 users’ data was collected without their permission to do so, as well as data from the 270,000 users’ 53 million friends.
This makes George Orwell’s 1984 ‘Big Brother’ state seem like child’s play, compared to the modern spy agencies that want to ‘own people,’ to know all about them, all the better to develop policies to control them economically and politically, putting an end to human freedom, leaving only one way for the people to really express themselves, and their rage at modern capitalist society – through socialist revolutions!
Dr Kogan’s defence, as told to BBC’s Radio Four, is that he was ‘stunned’ by the allegations made against him as he was advised the app was entirely legal. He said: ‘The events of the past week have been a total shell shock, and my view is that I’m being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica when … we thought we were doing something that was really normal.’
In fact, what he was doing, laying the basis for making profits out of people, is entirely normal under capitalism! The mass spying activity was carried out with a slimy cynicism when in 2014 a Facebook quiz invited users to find out their personality type.
This app harvested not only the user data of the person taking part in the quiz, but also the data of their friends. The data of some 50 million users, mainly in the US, was harvested without their consent via their friend networks and then used in the battle for the US presidency.
It is being claimed that the data were then sold to Cambridge Analytica. The firm’s chief executive Alexander Nix – who was suspended on Tuesday – was secretly recorded in a Channel 4 investigation saying the company ran Donald Trump’s digital campaign during the 2016 US election. On Tuesday, a parliamentary committee called for Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence about the use of personal data by Cambridge Analytica.
Damian Collins, the chairman of the House of Commons inquiry into fake news, has accused Facebook of previously ‘misleading’ the committee about this ‘catastrophic failure of process’. Of course, there was no catastrophic failure of process; the process worked perfectly. Information was harvested from 50 or so million people, and was then sold, as a commodity, to be used for both commercial and political purposes – all without their permission.
US senators have called on Zuckerberg, the proprietor of Facebook, to testify before Congress about how Facebook will protect users. The consumer watchdog the US Federal Trade Commission has also reportedly opened an investigation into Facebook. Zuckerberg may well be fined, but this will not resolve the issue.
We are living in a capitalist society, based on the exploitation of the working class through commodity production, where all use values are sold to realise their exchange value. As Marx explains in Capital, commodities can satisfy not just physical needs but can be to satisfy ‘fancy’.
Facebook treats information as a commodity. It takes the details of countless people, to be harvested and sold in order to elect political parties that act to keep the capitalist system and its superexploitation going.
The only way that the Facebook scandal can be put right is for the masses of the working class to rise up and put an end to capitalism and commodity production with socialist revolutions to expropriate the bosses and bankers and restore human freedom by getting rid of capitalism!