The increase in internet usage in the last two decades has influenced the value of data. According to TechCrunch, “Data has become a strategic asset that allows companies to acquire or maintain a competitive edge.” The 2015 report by TechCrunch says the value of a user’s data is at least worth $15. This means the amount of information a company has determines the money it can make. Companies know the potential value of data but unfortunately, most users do not.
Facebook is the world’s leading social network platform, according to Statista. As of the fourth quarter of 2017, Facebook had 2.2 billion monthly active users. This makes Facebook the ideal platform for harvesting data. Data brokers are aware of this fact and have devised various means of extracting user data. The Guardian report about Cambridge Analytica’s illegal data collection is worrisome for social network users because of the amount of information they share online.
One of the reasons data is easily accessible to data brokers is because most users do not know the value of their data. According to The New York Times, “the breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.”
However, Facebook is refusing to categorize the incident as a breach. According to Motherboard, Facebook’s vice president and deputy general counsel Paul Grewal says, “the claim that this is a data breach is completely false” because users signed up to the app “and everyone involved gave their consent.” It makes sense because a breach makes the company culpable and the company’s servers were not hacked. The fact that users are not aware of the value of their data is a problem.
There are different methods of extracting data from users like hacking, tricking users to share their sensitive information, or tricking users to give access to platforms that store their data. The Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests that users should be able to take their data with them when leaving any platform. It seems the data stored no longer belongs to the user but to the company. Many users sign in to other platforms using their Facebook account without bothering with the permissions they grant third parties.
Facebook gives users the option to prevent other platforms from having access to their information by making changes to their preferences through the settings page. Users can also edit the user information other apps can access, according to EFF. The report about the data collection of Cambridge Analytica should make users realize the value of their data and be careful with what they share or make public.