Why to watch The Great Hack

At S4 we make a big deal out of data privacy, it’s important to us, and it runs through everything we do. As a few examples:

  • We encourage our clients to use our ethical analytics platform in place of Google analytics, so that you retain ownership of your data and know it isn’t being mined and analysed for any kind of targeted advertising.
  • We consciously host things in countries that have strong laws protecting the rights of the individual to data privacy rather than those that give more surveillance freedoms to the government.
  • Our last blog post was about ethical alternatives to G Suite, which is a great product but grants Google a license to read the contents of all of your email, that’s actually right there in the license agreement that nobody ever reads.
  • Another recent blog post focused on using ethical search engines which, aside from being more environmentally sustainable, offer increased data privacy over Google or Bing.

Given all of that it seems strange then that until last week, nobody in our office had got around to watching The Great Hack, a 2019 documentary about the Facebook & Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Now that we all have, we think it’s a must see for anyone who spends a lot of time online, especially on social media.

In case you missed it, this is the story of how Cambridge Analytica, a UK based data analysis company, used data that was very questionably obtained from Facebook users. This data was used to target political campaigns in pretty unethical ways and arguably had a large degree of influence on both the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US election.

If you are in any doubt about why you should be aware of who has access to your personal data and what they use it for, or why you should really be reading all of those long dull terms of service and license agreements, then you really need to watch this documentary.

It’s a well made and interesting piece of filmmaking, it’s also at best sobering and at worst pretty terrifying.

Even if documentaries are not really your thing if you use social media and are concerned about data privacy, or even more so if you use social media and are not, then you should take a look.

You will no doubt draw your own conclusions about how much this kind of manipulation actually affects world events, about the ethicality of using big data to target things, and whether Brittany Kaiser comes out of it all as a bit of a victim herself or was completely complicit and knew what was going on.

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