Facebook has had a difficult week.
Whistleblower reports have alleged that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained people’s personal Facebook data. Facebook responded by calling Cambridge Analytica's actions a "scam" and a "fraud" and suspending the service.
The CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, meanwhile, has been suspended in the wake of undercover video footage revealing that he discussed possible bribery and sting operations. That’s led to calls for investigation and scrutiny of both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook itself. Should we #DeleteFacebook or has it become too big too fail, too much a part of our lives to cut off?
On Point guest host Kimberly Atkins discussed this and more with Ben Tarnoff, columnist at The Guardian who writes about technology and politics, Emily Dreyfuss, former senior staff writer at Wired, covering technology and national affairs, Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Frank Pasquale, professor of law at University of Maryland Francis King Care School of Law.
"Facebook makes its money from advertising," says Ben Tarnoff, "They can’t sell targeted advertising without surveillance. Surveillance is how Facebook makes money."
More Show Highlights
On trying to get answers from Alexander Nix
Schiff: The bigger problem we had on our committee was the unwillingness of the majority to invite most of the witnesses from Cambridge Analytica in to testify. We had requested that the majority do that even when we had Alexander Nix testify. He acknowledged that he is in the country frequently and was willing to come in person but the majority scheduled his interview by video teleconference at a time when members were on the Hill voting and the sight was off the Hill.
On whether Nix’s testimony got to the whole truth and nothing but the truth:
Schiff: The whistleblower’s statements contradict I think substantial issues raised by Mr. Nix’s testimony, so I think it's important that we subpoena Mr. Nix and bring him before the committee and make sure that we get the truth.”
On Facebook’s massive presence
Tarnoff: I think Facebook in a sense is inescapable. Facebook has become one of the digital infrastructures that for better or worse, and recently for worse, rule our lives.
On personal information out on the internet
Dreyfuss: That information is out there. It would be safe to assume that people are using it in all sorts of ways that we don’t understand.
On who’s using this data
Pasquale: Cambridge Analytica is only the very small tip of an iceberg of companies that could be using and misusing data.
On whether or not Facebook needs to be regulated
Schiff: I think the first thing we do before we regulate is understand the problem.
Ben Tarnoff, columnist at The Guardian who writes about technology and politics, founding editor of Logic, a magazine about technology. (@bentarnoff)
Emily Dreyfuss, former senior staff writer at Wired, covering technology and national affairs. She’s now doing the Nieman journalism fellowship at Harvard. (@EmilyDreyfuss)
Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. (@RepAdamSchiff)
Frank Pasquale, professor of law at University of Maryland Francis King Care School of Law. (@FrankPasquale)
From The Reading List:
The Guardian: Big Data For The People: It's Time To Take It Back From Our Tech Overlords — "Google knows you’re pregnant. Spotify knows your favorite throwback jams.
Is this convenient or creepy? It depends. One minute, you’re grateful for the personalized precision of Netflix’s recommendations. The next, you’re nauseated by the personalized precision of a Facebook ad."
Facebook is under fire after data mining company Cambridge Analytica sold information from 50 million Facebook users and sold it to the Trump campaign. Cambridge Analytica’s CEO was suspended and Facebook cut ties with the company. Still, FTC and Congress are scrutinizing the social media giant. Should Facebook and other social media platforms be regulated? Is your data safe?
This hour, On Point: Facebook faces the heat.
This program aired on March 21, 2018.