It is clear that the internet navigation of individuals leaves a trace that companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook use to create consumer profiles and provide more personalized advertising and information aimed at directly impacting consumer behavior and opinions. Problems arise when data is sold fraudulently or stolen. We are referring to the danger of free internet services.
Users often have access to a free tool or a link that allows them to download a product. Sometimes the portal or web application offers the option to log in using our Facebook account instead of creating a user. We have provided data points to these companies if we consent. We can also facilitate data points by using a web-based application. This will allow us to track all our movements. Online stores will have the ability to track what we buy, how we bought it, and what it cost.
A second danger is the availability of free services online that few people are aware. It is not the most dangerous thing we can do on the internet to pay with our data for free services. Given how many times it happens, most people don’t mind it. It’s even more concerning when the legal barrier is breached.
Ashley Madison is a top-ranking dating website that focuses primarily on extramarital affairs. His motto is “Life’s too short.” Have an adventure. Today’s website ensures that your data is kept confidential and secures all information. It was probably the same thing he would have said a few years back. In 2015, data theft occurred to the tune of 39 million users. The number of cases of extortion or blackmail rose with the involvement of its actors, political leaders, military high-ranking officers, and religious activists. As you can see, Ashley Madison is a free service in principle.
Although networking with other users is free for women only, men can pay for it. We don’t use Ashley Madison as an example for a company making a claim and then collecting (a very common practice). It is a reminder that data can be stolen and hackers are very interested in it. There is danger in using free internet services.
Cambridge Analytica was an organization that specialized in the analysis large-scale data. This is data which has been gathered from many sources at high speeds. They were able to orchestrate social media campaigns by using segmented messages and large amounts of information to influence public opinion. They were active in campaigns in Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago, and other African countries. His activities led the British population towards Brexit and the American population to the victory of Donald Trump in the election. The alarms of the legal media and journalistic media went off.
It is against the law to give user profiles and social graphs to companies for segmentation purposes (as was done in this case by Cambridge Analytica). It is at least not illegal without clearly informing users that they will be transferring their data to third-parties.
To facilitate Cambridge Analytica’s work, Facebook provided data from users’ social profiles. The 50 million Facebook profiles that were used by the British company for analysis of data strategic purposes had been improperly accessed by the British company. Only 270,000 people gave their consent for them to access their data. Funny thing is, all of this was possible by downloading an apparently innocent Facebook application for free. Another danger is the availability of free services online.
Cambridge Analytica was able to access up to 5,000 voter data points from this source. They directed public opinion through the social network and other segmented messages adapted to each recipient’s profile. Cambridge Analytica acknowledged that it had hired Facebook to run campaign ads. However, the data on Facebook users’ social profiles was not available. As it turned out, they had them illegally and were willing to work with them. They were therefore subject to judicial investigations from both sides of the Atlantic.
The British channel Channel 4 published a hidden camera recording that revealed conversations between Mark Turnbull (Managing director) and Alexander Nicx, (CEO) from Cambridge Analytica. These conversations included false information being spread on YouTube, Google, and networks to polarize public opinion. This was evidently done using data from social profiles obtained through dubious media. The CEO also confirmed that they used decoys and front companies to compromise political opponents.
Using free services such as social networks, web apps, or other services is, in short, giving away your data. This is the danger with free internet services. They won’t always use them for the purpose you authorize. They can also be stolen if the company dealing with them doesn’t have sufficient corporate cybersecurity measures. They can also be fraudulently used by legal entities.
Sometimes, it’s worth spending a little extra to avoid having to spend more.