You told Scrabble everything about you. Why are you shocked about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica?

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
Spells trouble: rich personal data from your Facebook account

If the current outrage about Cambridge Analytica harvesting the details of 50 million Facebook users proves anything, it’s that nobody pays the least bit of attention to what data they’re giving away on Facebook. Me included.

For years, we’ve been handing over bundles of personal information to apps that just don’t need it. Here, for example, is just some of the information that the vastly popular Scrabble app leeches when you install the app and log in with your Facebook account:

Scrabble Facebook data

There’s more:

Scrabble Facebook data

And more still:

Scrabble Facebook data

If the bloke at Halfords asks for my email address so he can send me an electronic copy of my receipt, I tell him to do one. Yet, here I am handing over my date of birth, religious and political beliefs, my relationship status, family photos and my email address, merely so I can play Tim at Scrabble.

Did I know I was handing over all this stuff when I blithely clicked OK on the permissions pop-up? No, I don’t think so. Did I care enough to stop and think? No, I just wanted to beat Tim.

It’s this carelessness that Facebook and its partners thrive on. Cambridge Analytica allegedly got most of its data from a personality testing app that doubtless hoovered up the same rich menu of data that I handed over to Scrabble.

Few stop to think about the implications of where this data might end up, they just want to find out which member of Friends they most closely resemble. By the way, the answer’s Joey: we’re all bloody idiots.

Does Facebook deserve the heat and the tanking share price that has resulted from these allegations? Wasn’t it just the middle man, passing over information that you explicitly agreed to divulge? Yes, it deserves every last cent of its paper loss, because it’s the enabler. It’s the company that made it possible for a word game – a sodding word game – to know whether I’m a Catholic (I’m not), which school I went to, and to see photos of my children. All for no good reason whatsoever.

Facebook put no controls on the information app makers could suck from your profile. It’s time the authorities got control of Facebook.

Now read this: can Facebook friends see I’ve searched their photos or profile?

Main imagr credit: David Martyn Hunt

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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