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Facebook: educate yourself before choosing the nuclear option

Facebook: educate yourself before choosing the nuclear option

In the wake of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica data scandal, which saw 50 million Facebook users’ data skimmed off by an unscrupulous British firm and used to help politicians target voters in Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, many users of the social network have woken up to the fact that their previously blasé attitudes towards what Facebook does with their data may need revising. One survey suggested that 73% of Canadians now plan to change their Facebook habits after the data mining revelations.

To be fair, Facebook has rolled out some privacy changes since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. But to be equally fair, the EU’s new GDPR data privacy legislation will soon force them to make these changes anyway. So two cheers for Facebook.

The use of personal data to try and swing a major world political event has poked a hole in the notion that one’s own personal data can’t really be all that important. If the usual reasons for keeping your data private – cybercrime, identity theft etc. – weren’t enough, then for many the recent exposé about the use of their data in geopolitical games has tipped the scales from indifferent or only vaguely alarmed right over to full-on disgust, and pushed them to actions including the nuclear option of deleting their Facebook accounts (here’s how, in case you’re wondering).

But in order to avoid knee-jerk ‘social media suicides’ that might not be necessary and could be regretted later, it’s best to have all the facts before hitting the kill switch. The seriousness of the past few weeks’ events – the Facebook data ‘breach’, the revelations about Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL Group’s political affiliations, the boasting of CA’s frankly creepy CEO Alexander Nix that his firm has run successful campaigns to discredit politicians worldwide including Hilary Clinton, and that Facebook didn’t do nearly enough to stop them using their users’ data to do so – has served to motivate more people to take a deeper dive into online privacy and make the effort to educate themselves. If knowledge (read: data) is power, then the average citizen would be wise to learn how to wrest some of that power back from data miners like Cambridge Analytica.

Here are a few examples of courses that aim to help people do just that. A quick Google will turn up the course that’s right for you.

A free general-purpose cyber security course from Newcastle University (perhaps ironically, you can register using Facebook)

A campus initiative to educate students at Booth University College, Winnipeg

Bespoke online privacy training for High Net Worth individuals

Or why not train as a Certified Information Privacy Professional? There should be plenty of work on that career path.