The film The Great Hack introduces a number of controversial topics related to the intersection of data security, privacy and social media, exemplified by the exploitation of the Facebook platform by Cambridge Analytica. Moreover, the interviews with various former Cambridge Analytica personnel tend to shift the narrative in defensive ways, given the legal backdrop. In this assignment you will have a chance to express your own views on some of the ideas presented in the film. There are no easy answers to how (and even if) political activity on social media platforms should be conducted, making this an excellent launching point for discussion.
Briefly respond to the following prompts in a PDF document (a few sentences for each one is fine, but feel free to write as much as you'd like). These responses will be summarized and discussed in class following the film. This film response is worth 50 points, which count towards your total class participation grade. It is due at 11:59pm on 3/6.
Was any aspect of the data harvesting and influence campaigns executed by Cambridge Analytica and its partners ethical? Why or why not? Explain your reasoning. Note that the Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge that spun-out some of the technology used by Cambridge Analytica in its campaigns is still operational.
If you find yourself as a political consultant following graduation and are tasked with creating a campaign similar to the one Cambridge Analytica designed for Brexit, would you do it? After all, big data analytics is now a standard piece of the political operative's repertoire. If yes, would you try to do anything different with respect to how the campaign was executed? If no, how would you go about letting your boss down?
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there has been much debate over how much political activity should unfold over social media. Some platforms have banned political advertising (e.g., Twitter), while others have sought to maintain platforms open to all content (e.g., Facebook). Should tech companies rethink the openness of their platforms, or must we adhere to a completely free an open Internet out of principle?
Send a copy of your response to the above prompts (in PDF format) via email to Sophia (firstname.lastname@example.org). Prof. Scheirer will grade these and lead a discussion based on the thoughts of the class during the week of 3/16 (when we get back from Spring Break).
If you have specific questions about this assignment before it is due, please reach out to Prof. Scheirer or Sophia during office hours, or via slack. This assignment is worth 50 points.