Did you fall victim to the Facebook personality quiz billed as research for Britain’s Cambridge Analytica?
If you did, you aren’t alone. Some 300,000 people took the quiz and unwittingly agreed to give not only their private data to Cambridge Analytica, but also the private data of their Facebook friends. The breach impacted 50 million Facebook users.
The violation allowed Cambridge Analytica to create psychological profiles to predict way too much about users. Among them were disturbing things, such as: People who like “I hate Israel” stickers also like a specific kind of candy bar.
Up to 50,000 Americans living in Israel were among the users whose data was pilfered, and authorities have filed a law suit.
According to the Jerusalem Post, “Cambridge Analytica claimed to have an undercover reporter posing as a potential client to (use) Israeli companies and former Israeli spies in its intelligence gathering.”
This is directly against Israeli privacy law, says Israel’s Justice Ministry’s Privacy Protection Authority. According to those laws, “personal information may only be used for the purpose for which it was handed over, and may be transferred to another party only if consent has been given.”
The offense underscores how easily your social media data can be mined and used without your knowledge. It can then be used to manipulate people for a variety of causes, including digital terrorism and anti-Semitism.
How We Got to This New Age of Manipulation
When Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign collected and analyzed social media data to address the concerns of individual voters, it revolutionized political campaign advertising.
According to MIT Technology Review, “In doing so, [the campaign] overturned the long dominance of TV advertising in U.S. politics and created something new in the world … The electorate could be seen as a collection of individual citizens who could each be measured and assessed on their own terms.”
The Obama team created a re-election app that was downloaded by more than a million people. By clicking on “I Agree,” users gave the campaign their social media profiles, list of friends, biographical information, tags, news feeds, likes and demographics. But, at the same time, they released their friends’ information – that same extensive list. And those friends didn’t even need to click an “I Agree” button for it to happen to them.
Fast forward to 2015. Using the personality quiz mentioned above, Cambridge Analytica collected and analyzed Facebook data that it later sold to 2016 political campaigns.
The Trump campaign denies it used the data. And the research of Eitan Hersh, a Tufts professor who wrote the book Hacking the Electorate, deemed the tactics of both Obama and Trump ineffective in convincing people how to vote.
However, the cat is out of the bag, and it’s up to individuals like you and me to protect our data and that of our friends.
Easy Steps to Protect Your Data
Facebook is a great way to stay connected to friends and family, but unscrupulous people want to take advantage of the homey feel of social media. When we unwittingly hand over data, we give harmful people the ammunition they need.
Here are some common-sense steps you can take to keep your data out of the hands of those who seek to use it to abuse Israel or in other unscrupulous ways:
- Tighten Up. Develop your own privacy policies for your activities, and make sure your friends know what they are. You can go into your privacy settings on Facebook, for example, and, with one click, you can ensure that only your friends can see your posts and photos. (Also check your group memberships; some groups require all posts on their sites to be public – in other words, visible to everyone on Facebook.)
- Clean up. In Facebook, you can see which apps you have given permission to see your data, posts and photos. Go to the settings page, click on the apps tab, remove those you don’t want following you, and decide what details you will share.
- Block. There are tracker blockers and ad blockers to eliminate popups- and to keep sites from tracking you. When you use these features, keep in mind that it may limit the site’s functionality.
- Maintenance. Regularly clear your browser history and cookies, and NEVER store passwords in your browser. Sure, it’s more convenient, but it greatly increases your vulnerability. As part of your maintenance, don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
- Respect privacy. Always read privacy policies before using a website or app. Respect the privacy of others by never agreeing to share anything about your social media friends.
- Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, leave that page or post immediately and never go back. Pay particular attention to polls, quizzes, surveys and “free offers.”
How You Can Pray
- Ask for God’s intervention in efforts to mine your data, and for better education of and discernment of all social media users.
- Pray for the protection of innocent people who are targets of social media scams for nefarious purposes such as digital terrorism and anti-Semitism.
- Pray that the scales will fall from the eyes of the Jewish people to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah and to lean on Him for wisdom and protection in all situations.
How Your Gift Will Help
- When you give to Jewish Voice, you are on the front lines helping in the complex battle against anti-Semitism. It is clearly becoming a threat in new and more insidious forms, including within the pages of social media.
- Your support also helps vulnerable Holocaust survivors, providing much-needed vision and dental care – and, most importantly, opening doors to share with them the Good News of Yeshua (Jesus).