Facebook’s tendency to remove privacy for its users has once again reared its ugly head. From practicing psychological experiments on its unaware user base to denying users the ability to maintain a pseudonym, Facebook has repeatedly made its intentions known with regard to user privacy. Now, however, the company isn’t simply making a point. Facebook has entered into an agreement with ABC News and BuzzFeed to cull the political leanings of its users based on their conversations conducted within the application.
The technology and algorithms involved in the Facebook app provide a strong basis from which to discern a multitude of information regarding its users. Going well beyond straightforward targeted marketing within the application, Facebook will now sift through the data streaming into the app and provide political information to these two news companies with the specific intent to help estimate voting trends and candidate approval ratings.
This act begs the question, how far is too far? With Facebook’s access to this information, are there implicit rights for the company to use said information freely? As with any technology, people must take on the responsibility of choosing how to employ their power. Information is power, and Facebook has the lion’s share.
A spokesperson from Facebook stated the data would be mined in “a privacy safe way,” but the fact remains that Big Brother is watching the American people and deciding whether or not their political opinions on candidates and issues are neutral, negative, or positive. This partnership sets Facebook up to become the primary arena in which politicians and citizens debate and discuss political issues of the day, thus reducing the use of other equivalent applications for healthy discourse.
Since many people already regularly use Facebook as a platform for advertising their political views, the data is already present. The 2016 elections will be the first to disseminate statistical and demographic data, officially obtained through social media, regarding the political climate in America.