The Ethical Implications of the 2018 Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal




Arora, Nikhil
Zinolabedini, Darius

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This paper evaluates the ethics behind the actions of Facebook leading up to and after the joint Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal that involved the 2016 Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. Facebook, Inc. is a massive tech conglomerate, most commonly known for its social media platform Facebook, as well as its ownership of Instagram, Messenger, and Whatsapp. Cambridge Analytica was a political consulting firm that specialized in leveraging data mining techniques in order to help their clients expand potential voter bases. The scandal involved Cambridge Analytica’s exploitation of the raw data of over 87 million Facebook profiles that Facebook negligently protected. The scandal occurred privately from 2013 to 2016, with news finally breaking to the public in March of 2018 when a former Cambridge Analytica employee, Christopher Wylie, blew the whistle to the Guardian and the New York Times. This paper shows where the ethical breakdowns occured within Facebook and explores the company’s responsibility in relation to the scandal. Facebook repeatedly violated their own Code of Conduct and their own Data Policies when they became lax with the handling of user data in respect to 3rd parties. This scandal began a global discussion on protecting the public from the weaponization of private consumer data as well as exploring the need for potential regulations on Big Tech.

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