Cambridge Analytica’s Black Box
The Cambridge Analytica–Facebook scandal led to widespread concern over the methods deployed by Cambridge Analytica to target voters through psychographic profiling algorithms, built upon Facebook user data. The scandal ultimately led to a record-breaking $5 billion penalty imposed upon Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in July 2019. The FTC action, however, has been criticized as failing to adequately address the privacy and other harms emanating from Facebook’s release of approximately 87 million Facebook users’ data, which was exploited without user authorization. This Essay summarizes the FTC’s response to the Cambridge Analytica–Facebook scandal. It concludes that the scandal focuses attention on the need to explore the potential for embedding due process-type inquiries and protections within the enforcement actions by regulatory agencies such as the FTC. These protections are increasingly important in addressing the problem of “black boxing the voter” that is now presented by data- and algorithmic-driven companies such as Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.
Margaret Hu, Cambridge Analytica’s Black Box Big Data & Soc'y (2020).