The UK based political advertising firm Cambridge Analytica is currently in the eye of a storm following the emergence of reports that the company harvested data from millions of Facebook users and used it to influence US presidential election in 2016. A sting operation had caught company’s top executives boasting about the firm’s willingness to use tactics like psychological manipulation and run fake news campaigns to influence voter’s behavior. Following the shocking reports, hashtags like #DeleteFacebook are trending on social media with people showing their anger with the social media network for failing to protect their data.

Following the controversy, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to users in a post on the social media site. He said that he admits that there was a mistake on Facebook’s part and that he was trying to understand the situation better so that it does not happen again. He added that he believed if Facebook was unable to protect users’ data, it had no right to serve them. In this article, we have outlined how with the use of digital marketing,  firms like Cambridge Analytica can use your personal information to influence elections.

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Step 1: Your personal information on Facebook, your likes, dislikes, friend list and political thoughts are analysed. In the case of Cambridge Analytica, it is being said that the company used an app which gave people a chance to know more about their personality. By virtue of this, it collected personal information of more than 2.7 lakh people and used it to influence US presidential election. The company is credited for Donald Trump’s victory in the election.

Step 2: Your personal data(age, gender etc) is then connected to the election campaign data and used to serve political clients.

Step 3: In a bid to influence your opinion, companies use a digital marketing technique known as micro-targeting after analysing your interests. Users are then sent messages and shown advertisements which can influence their political thoughts and force them to change their vote. In case the company feels, it would not be able to manipulate your thoughts, it moves to the next user. 

The recent controversy has once again sparked the debate of data safety. Now, it would be intriguing to see what steps Facebook takes to gain back the trust of people.

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