Readers respond to recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, and suggest ways our personal data might be better safeguarded
Patrick Cosgrove (Letters, 21 March) argues that the answer to the Facebook data scandal is simple – stop using Facebook. Alas, this completely misses the point. A few of us have never been a member of Facebook, but they still hold data about us, gathered from our friends and family who do have Facebook accounts. Worse, given that Facebook also buys data about people from third-party brokers, the profile they have on us is probably far more detailed and complete than we might like to think. The Facebook AI systems may know where we live, where we used to live, our work history, quite a bit about our movements, the people we know, where and how often we meet, how rich or poor we are, our interests, political outlook and so on. This is not trivial. The more they know, the more they can deduce and infer – and the more that information can be abused when it falls into the wrong hands.
It was said some years ago that the credit card companies had such good profiles of us that they could predict when a marriage was going to break up before the couple did. This may well have been apocryphal, but behavioural prediction has come a long way in the last few years. I have no doubt at all that this is now a prediction that can be made with a high degree of accuracy.