Cambridge Analytica Scandal Proves Need for Online Ethics

The tech story of the week: Cambridge Analytica. The London-based consulting firm became a household name last week after the New York Times  reported it had improperly harvested Facebook data from millions of users using a third-party app, in order to benefit the Trump campaign. Cambridge Analytica was able to collect information on more than 50 million users, one of the largest data leaks in the history of social media. Stolen data was then coordinated and used under the direction of Trump adviser Steve Bannon to influence the 2016 U.S. elections. This, of course, comes soon after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for using Facebook to interfere in the election.

The scandal has already had major consequences. On Friday, UK authorities raided Cambridge Analytica offices and servers in an investigation related to the Facebook hack and its use not only in the U.S., but on the Brexit campaign as well. Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg posted an apology and explanation on the platform, and has volunteered to testify before Congress. Backlash has been fierce, regardless, with many outraged at the breach of privacy and some leaving Facebook altogether – Elon Musk, included.

This dramatic breach of privacy and misuse of online data raises again the question of how our data is used. The Boston Global Forum has published the Ethics Code of Conduct for Cyber Peace and Security (ECCC), which advises organizations and individuals on how to responsibly manage and navigate cyberspace. Among the many suggestions is that businesses should “take responsibility for handling sensitive corporate data stored electronically.” Cambridge Analytica proves how imperative this is. AIWS encourages companies and individuals to engage in responsible online behavior in line with our ECCC guidelines.