Obama Capitalized on Facebook Data First


Facebook is down nearly $70 billion, there’s a #DeleteFacebook hashtag, and Tesla, SpaceX and Playboy have all deleted their pages. The headlines keep piling up and seem to point to a potential beginning of the end for the world’s largest social medium.

The anti-Facebook movement began with a revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm, used a personality test to collect information on not only the people who took the quiz but also their friends. Altogether, data on more than 50 million Facebook users were captured and retained even after Facebook asked it to be deleted. Add to this revelation that Facebook’s messenger and Lite applications had been logging a user’s call and messenger information, and users would seem to have a good reason to jump ship. In fact, if one downloads their personal data from Facebook, they’ll see just how much the company knows—and keeps—about every user.

Except it probably means more to purveyors of the news than most Facebook users today. Cambridge Analytica’s ties to partial backer Steve Bannon and consultation work for the Trump campaign during 2016 have fueled the Democratic ire and the political war drums. Many are, however, forgetting Obama’s campaign used similar data to propel itself to victory in 2012. Obama’s campaign even went a Cambridge Analytica had less fruitful results: Its data were used unsuccessfully by Ted Cruz in his run-up for the nomination and were abandoned by Trump mid-campaign for better information from the RNC.

Carol Davidsen, a former official for Obama’s 2012 campaign, has been outspoken about their methods using Facebook.

Users can rest a little bit easier knowing that a similar feat could not be performed on today’s platform. On April 30, 2015, Facebook pulled the plug on much of the data developers could access from their apps’ users and started preventing third parties from obtaining user’s name, details about user’s friends, and other sensitive information. As for retaining text message and call information, Facebook says that it has always been something to which users opted-in, but in 2016, under mounting pressure over privacy concerns, it began to explicitly ask for permission to access a user’s information. It also says that data were never shared with third parties.

The number of active Facebook users worldwide has been growing consistently, and this scandal—buried in the early 2010s—won’t have a major impact on the company’s growth as it is less relevant today with the changes Facebook has already made. The media are using the political aspects of access to users’ data to scare people into worrying about their privacy when most users are aware that you can’t expect complete confidentiality with anything on Facebook. If people are going to be mad, they should really be mad at their 2014-selves for not expressing concern on how Facebook allowed the Obama campaign to use their data instead of feigning consternation when it is tied to the other political party.