There are a great many reasons to abandon Facebook, and we could speedily blaze through our word count linking to the colorful variety of ways it executes productivity, scrambles your concept of real friends and drains your will to live.
But though it’s stuffed with hideous terrors, we could, until now, at least say Facebook wasn’t a large part of some massive global identity scam that ended up with the personal information of 50 million users in the hands of an exceedingly shady political operation for the purpose of manipulating a presidential election. This latest story represents one of the largest data breaches in the company’s history, and I think I speak for all of us when I say ONE OF THE LARGEST? There’s a DEPTH CHART? Dislike.
Anyway, though the broad strokes of this Dark Political ID Theft story will sound familiar if you’ve watched any science fiction movie ever made, what’s really going on this time? We’ve assembled some hopeful answers, which we … encourage you to share online? Ugh this is confusing.
Sigh, so, Jeebus on a cracker, who got their damp fingers on my identity this time?
Meet the nice people of Cambridge Analytica, a British firm that achieves the unique feat of bearing a name that’s blankly anonymous yet still seethes with evil. In the exciting months leading up to the last presidential election, which seems like four decades ago but appears to have taken place in 2016, the firm developed “methods that it claimed could identify the personalities of individual American voters and influence their behavior,” according to the New York Times. “The firm’s so-called psychographic modeling techniques, which were built in part with the data harvested from Facebook, underpinned its work for the Trump campaign in 2016, though many have questioned their effectiveness.” They set out to get user stuff, and they did. (If you’re getting itchy that we just said Trump, calm down — we literally do not care who you like, only that if vague biographies of my children ended up in the hands of Bruce Springsteen, J.J. Abrams and/or Salma Hayek I’d lose my s**t about it. FINE, I would stop to think about Salma.)
Uh, psychographic modeling techniques?
If you posted memes of Trump and Jesus riding steel-saddled warhorses into the gates of Hell, or Hillary standing atop the world with angels surrounding the golden crown atop her locks, they picked you. Seriously, most of us list four examples of Personalities of Individual American Voters on our friend lists right now, unless you unfollowed them in 2016, which you should have.
How can they steal data from 50 million people?
Partly voluntarily! Cambridge Analytica paid users “small sums” to download an app and take a personality quiz, which asked them a bunch of fun questions about optimism and motivation while surreptitiously copy-and-pasting information from their profiles and those of their friends, which was 100% Facebook-legal at the time! (Just as a public service announcement and mostly for my dad if’s he reading NEVER DOWNLOAD QUIZ APPS, GOD.) Roughly 270,000 people consented to take the quiz, but 50 million users had their data breached. So if you’re a friend of someone who took the quiz — and you probably are, if you have an aunt — congratulations, your shopping habits, pant size and names of your children are in the hands of people who rig elections for a living.
Did Facebook notify the affected users?
HAHAHAHAHA welcome to the internet, you’re going to hate it here. Of course Facebook didn’t. Facebook’s CEO/2020 presidential candidate initially responded to reports of rumored Russian political interference by saying it was a “pretty crazy idea,” and then tripped over his shoelaces running backwards when it ended being pretty crazy fact. Facebook’s chief information security officer just announced he’s quitting over — this is weird — disagreements on how a massive corporation company deals with its users’ privacy, and how they use their blade runners.
How can I address my privacy on Facebook?
In response to the most recent three million privacy concerns, Facebook has introduced a “Privacy Check” tool that allows you to spin through your settings and make you feel like you exert some minor degree of control over any of this. But let’s be honest, it’s pretty difficult to put out a house fire that’s been burning for two years.
What can I do?
First, assume that every single time you click anything, actual genetic copies of your DNA seep into your laptop and transport themselves directly to the underground lairs of juntas of clammy-handed Russian hackers, probably through a series of tubes.
Second, if you’ve ever been moved to delete Facebook — like really actually delete it, not say you were deleting it and then posting about it on Instagram — now might be a very good time.
But we recommend a third course of action, one adapted from an old piece of advice from George Carlin, who brilliantly said that when you’re contacted by exit pollsters, phone surveys or political operatives, do this one thing: lie. Just lie, and keep lying, like you’re testifying about PEDs, like you just smashed your Escalade into a fire hydrant. (<- Reference STILL FRESH.) If you’re a Hillary person, slather your Facebook page in hot fresh MAGA, and to prove it, psychotically capitalize all the wrong words. If you’re a Republican operative, turn your bio into a mash note to Bernie Sanders, complete with pink hearts and memes about Guy Fawkes smoking weed. Flood the network with pathetic amounts of misinformation, sleights of hand, and misdirection, because this tactic is 100% proven to work.