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Cambridge Analytica’s Abuse of Facebook User Data Shows Profound Impact of Technology on Democracy

Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica from its platform for violating its guidelines on the use of user data. A New York Times article from today further illuminated the scale of Cambridge Analytica’s efforts and showed how the company used personal information about users to conduct targeted political outreach. These revelations illustrate the profound impact internet platforms can have on democracy. The following statement is attributable to Nuala O’Connor, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT):

“Now is a time of reckoning for all tech and internet companies to truly consider their impact on democracies worldwide. While the misuse of data is not new, what we now see is how seemingly insignificant information about individuals can be used to decide what information they see and influence viewpoints in profound ways.”

“Internet users in United States are left incredibly vulnerable to this sort of abuse because of the lack of comprehensive data protection and privacy laws, which leaves this data unprotected. The level of online microtargeting through major communications platforms that is possible today makes increased transparency essential.”

“Every individual must have greater agency and control over their personal data by default, which is clearly not reality today. Communications technologies have become an essential part of our daily lives, but if we are unable to have control of our data, these technologies control us. For our democracy to thrive, this cannot continue.”