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Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: All You Need to Know

Tech giant Facebook and data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica are embroiled in a dispute over the harvesting and misappropriation of personal data.

The controversy centers on whether data was used to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

As a result, bipartisan consensus is calling on Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress about Cambridge Analytica’s use of data.

It’s a sensational story—involving allegations of sleaze, psychological manipulation and data misuse—that has provoked international outrage.

 But what is Cambridge Analytica? And why should its involvement with Facebook concern us?

College News investigates.

What is Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica, a data mining, brokerage and analysis company, uses data analysis and behavioral science with strategic communication to connect its clients with their audiences.

It has been credited with helping Donald Trump to victory.

On its website, CA describes itself as: ‘the global leader in data-driven campaigning with over 25 years of experience, supporting more than 100 campaigns in five continents.

‘Our team of PHD data scientists, expert researchers, and seasoned political operatives have produced decisive results for campaigns and initiatives throughout the world.’

Its most notable work involves the 2016 US presidential election campaign, and the Leave.EU campaign for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

CA’s involvement in both campaigns has been highly controversial and is the subject of on-going criminal investigations in both countries.

The company is partly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, an American hedge-fund manager who supports many politically conservative causes.

It maintains offices in London, New York City and Washington, D.C.

A series of undercover investigative videos, released in March 2018, showed Cambridge Analytica’s CEO Alexander Nix bragging about using prostitutes, bribery and ‘honey traps’ to discredit politicians whom it conducts opposition research on.

Mr Nix has since claimed the videos grossly misrepresent him and he was ‘deliberately trapped.’

What is Facebook’s role?

A quiz in 2014 invited Facebook users to find out their personality types.

The quiz, which took the form of a Facebook app, was deigned and developed by Dr Aleksandr Kogan, from the University of Cambridge.

Dr Kogan, who claims he is being painted as an academic ‘scapegoat’, said he developed the ‘research app’ because he wanted the data to model human behavior through social media.

The app, called ‘This is Your Digital Life’, collected data from around 270,000 users.

As was common with Facebook apps and games at the time, it was designed to harvest not only the data of the person using it, but also their friends’ data.

Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie said, as a result, the data of about 50 million people was harvested for the analysis firm.

Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica deny any wrongdoing.

And Facebook has since clamped down on the amount data developers can scrape in this way.

What investigations are under way?

A number of US senators, both Republican and Democrat, have called on Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress on how Facebook will protect users.

‘Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify under oath in public before the Judiciary Committee. He owes it to the American people who ought to be deeply disappointed by the conflicting and disparate explanations that have been offered,’ Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, told reporters Monday evening.

So far Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has not revealed what he intends to do.

Two other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Neely Kennedy, R-Louisiana, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, sent a letter on Monday to Grassley requesting a wider hearing with tech CEOs from Twitter, Facebook and Google.

The demand for greater transparency from Facebook spans multiple committees from across both chambers.

Late Monday, the chairman of the Senate Committee, John Thune, R-South Dakota, sent a letter to Zuckerberg demanding answers by March 29 about the type of user data Cambridge Analytica was able to gain access to.

The UK and European Parliament are also launching their own investigations.

How do I protect my Facebook account?

To protect your Facebook account, implement the following steps:

  • Log in to Facebook and visit the App setting page
  • Click edit button under Apps, Websites and Plugins
  • Disable platform

This will mean you won’t be able to use third-party sites on Facebook. But if that is a step too far, you can limit the personal information apps can access by:

  • Logging into Facebook’s App setting page;
  • Unclicking every category you don’t want the App to access—which includes, bio, family, religious views, posts on your timeline, activities and interests.

Other advice:

  • Never click a ‘like’ button on a product service page;
  • If you want to play games and quizzes, don’t log in through Facebook; go directly to the site.
School Shootings

When Will Horrific Scourge of School Shootings in America End?

We’re hardly two full months into 2018 and there have already been 18 school shootings—that’s roughly double the amount of the same time last year.

College News asks: when, if ever, will the horrific scourge of school shootings in America end?

Yesterday’s traumatic images from Parkland, Florida, are igniting once more the divisive debate of U.S. gun control.

Since 2013, there have been almost 300 school shootings in America—an average of about one a week, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy organisation.

While these figures may be shocking, the right to bear arms is enshrined in the American constitution.

For many Americans, tightening up on gun laws won’t change anything.

They’d ask: what would stricter gun laws do to stop mentally unwell people from committing heinous acts?

In fact, a recent study, published in the Harvard  of Law & Public Policy, concluded nations with strict gun laws had higher murder rates than those who did not in general.

“For instance, Denmark has roughly half the gun ownership rate of Norway, but a 50 percent higher murder rate, while Russia has only one‐ninth Norway’s gun ownership rate but a murder rate 2500 percent higher.

“There is not insubstantial evidence that in the United States widespread gun availability has helped reduce murder and other violent crime rates,” the study said.

Still, this doesn’t hide the fact gun violence in the United States results in thousands of deaths and injuries annually; or that several of the deadliest shootings in modern U.S. history have taken place in schools.

In 2007, 32 victims were killed at Virginia Tech. The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre left 26 dead.

Wednesday’s mass shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas is the deadliest since Sandy Hook.

Michael Irwin, a parent whose son attended the school, told the Guardian newspaper: “All the regulation in the world wouldn’t have prevented necessarily what happened today. It’s something that’s tragic, but what regulation can you pass that takes away the guns already out there?”

John Crescitelli, a family doctor and parent whose 15-year-old child was caught up in the shooting, said: “These school shootings have to stop. This is crazy. My son’s football coach died. It’s horrible. It’s like Columbine across the street from my house.”

 Sarah Tofte, director of research and implementation at Everytown, told CNBC: “We really do deserve to live in a place where children are free from gun violence in their homes, schools and communities.”

She added: “When you look at all the ways children are impacted by gun violence, you realize what a tremendous problem we have as a country.”

President Trump is a strong advocate of every American’s right to bear arms.

So where does this leave the nation? Will these school shootings ever stop?

Share your views with us.

Further reading: Do Millennials Trust Trump with Gun Control?