The massive and still-unfolding story of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook has spawned a debate about what a “data breach” is, and whether this was that. Facebook itself took issue with the notion that CA’s access to the data constituted a breach. Motherboard said they won’t call it a data breach, because it was “a feature, not a bug” in Facebook’s system. Molly McHugh at The Ringer said we shouldn’t be mad at Facebook for “being Facebook,” and that this was a “breach of trust,” not a data breach.
Blah blah! Who cares!!! This is not a tech blog, and I’m not here to contribute to a navel-gazing semantic debate about whether a term that most people don’t understand precisely is correct in this specific instance.
What is worth saying is that this is less “Facebook problem” than it is an “internet problem,” and more than that, a “capitalism problem.” It is still a Facebook problem, in that they’re one of the biggest data collection machines in the world, and they’re the bad actors in this particular story. But the terrible system that many observers have correctly identified at work here—data-mining, entirely dependent on users not realizing what they’re signing up for—is at work across the internet. To truly overthrow Facebook’s data regime, we would need to revolutionize the entire internet.
And we should.