Funny, When Obama Harvested Facebook Data On Millions Of Users To Win In 2012, Everyone Cheered, by Investors Business Daily (an editorial).
a professor at Cambridge University built a Facebook app around 2014 that involved a personality quiz. About 270,000 users of the app agreed to share some of their Facebook information, as well as data from people on their friends list. As a result, tens of millions ended up part of this data-mining operation.
Consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which paid for the research, later worked with the Trump campaign to help them target advertising campaigns on Facebook, using the data they’d gathered on users.
But while the Trump campaign used Cambridge Analytica during the primaries, it didn’t use the information during the general election campaign, relying instead on voter data provided by the Republican National Committee, according to CBS News. It reports that “the Trump campaign had tested the RNC data, and it proved to be vastly more accurate than Cambridge Analytica’s.” …
But Facebook had been promoting itself to political parties looking for a new way to reach voters. Nor was this the first time Facebook users had their data unwittingly shared with a political campaign. …
In 2012, the Obama campaign encouraged supporters to download an Obama 2012 Facebook app that, when activated, let the campaign collect Facebook data both on users and their friends.
According to a July 2012 MIT Technology Review article, when you installed the app, “it said it would grab information about my friends: their birth dates, locations, and ‘likes.’ ”
The campaign boasted that more than a million people downloaded the app, which, given an average friend-list size of 190, means that as many as 190 million had at least some of their Facebook data vacuumed up by the Obama campaign — without their knowledge or consent.
According to a Time magazine account just after Obama won re-election, “the team blitzed the supporters who had signed up for the app with requests to share specific online content with specific friends simply by clicking a button.”
The effort was called a “game-changer” in the 2012 election, and the Obama campaign boasted that it was “the most groundbreaking piece of technology developed for the campaign.” …
The only difference, as far as we can discern, between the two campaigns’ use of Facebook, is that in the case of Obama the users themselves agreed to share their data with the Obama campaign, as well as that of their friends.
The users that downloaded the Cambridge app, meanwhile, were only told that the information would be used for academic purposes. Nor was the data to be used for anything other than academic purposes.
It’s an important distinction, to be sure, and Facebook is right to be attacked for its inability to control how its user data were being gathered and shopped around. (Facebook tightened its privacy rules on data sharing apps in 2015.)
But keep in mind that it wasn’t the Trump campaign that solicited the collection of the data. And, as we said, it didn’t use the data in the general election campaign.