Business Ethics is the moral and social examination of business in relation to the business practices and decision making. The business practice should uphold morality and ethics as demanded by the constitution; the business enterprise should have a code of conduct that assists in the implementation of the ethics in their operations. Ethics enforces the moral principle which guides the manner in which an organization conducts its operations especially one that involves human resource (Bucholtz & Carroll, 2012). Privacy in the work place is an ethical consideration for most companies. The sharing of data is normally controlled as the data of the clients are supposed to be kept secret. The United States of America in 1974 enacted the privacy act which governs the collection and use of individual data which is stored by any recording systems. This recording systems in the contemporary world include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google among others.
Cambridge Analytica is a data company located in the UK famous for the political consulting services it offers. The company conducts data mining which is the analyzed and strategic decisions made from the conclusions; from such operations one can sway the future and even predict the outcome of an event. The company has been on the news for the past five months after the data misuse scandal involving Facebook came out; this came into light after a recorded conversation of one of the top managers at the data firm was leaked. The leaked video and audio recording started a series of controversies for the company with relation to data misuse gained from Facebook; the controversies led to the closure of the data firm eventually (Rogers & Duranti, 2017).
The pressure on Cambridge Analytica was because of the failure to have a proper business ethics with regard to privacy of the client’s data. The data collected from the users of Facebook which Cambridge Analytica illegally put into use constitute violation of business ethics (Bucholtz ; Carroll, 2012). The subsequent paragraphs detail of the instances of data breach which constituted business ethics violation.
USA’s 2016 Election
“We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting… we ran all the digital campaign.” These were the words of Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica. Mr. Nix, in a meeting with Britain’s Channel 4 reporter, boasted how they had helped President Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election against Hillary Clinton. The company’s CEO and other dignitaries thought they were having a business meeting to aid another country’s running officials in their upcoming elections, the country was Sri Lanka. Nix boasted of how he severally met Donald Trump and planned out his election in 2016; Nix told the reporter than Trump only became president because of the research the company had conducted with the harvested millions of user’s data from Facebook. Despite Trump’s loss in popular votes, the company had conducted intense research which helped Trump in the Electoral College votes (Cadwalladr ; Graham-Harrison, 2018). The company would use proxy organizations which included charities and activist groups to channel their misinformation about the competing candidate and into social media.
The information would target the intended audience through their selection of recipients since they already had the information of over 50 million Facebook users. The information was useful in determining the target of the misinformation. The misinformation fed into the media would grow and as the growth was monitored, so did the popularity of the opposition monitored; in this case, Hillary Clinton’s support declined considerably (Cadwalladr & Graham-Harrison, 2018). The proxy organizations would aid put the misinformation to the public and it will grow without branding and as a result, no voter would had attributed the information to Cambridge Analytica, this made the company’s operations untraceable. The company also used encrypted mails with the clients so that security is guaranteed for the emails that company exchanged with the clients. The company came up with the “Defeat Crooked Hillary” advertisements which attacked Hillary Clinton; the ads circulated all over the internet and mostly appearing to the supporters of Hillary Clinton whose data had been harvested by the company from Facebook.
Kenya’s 2017 Presidential Election
Cambridge Analytica had an active role in the Kenya’s 2017 presidential election; Jubilee, the incumbent party in power, hired the services of the company in the elections. The controversial video by Channel 4 reporter confirmed that the company had a full involvement in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s two election wins. This was possible through the spread of fake news in the social media especially Facebook. The company harvested millions of data from Facebook users in Kenya and worked towards construction of pro-Uhuru campaign (Chege, 2018). The company channeled the collected data from Kenyan Facebook users into a third party app which influenced the position of the individual with regard to electing President Uhuru again in 2017 or Raila Odinga, the opposition leader.
The information from the Facebook users was used illegally to determine if a person is a Uhuru supporter or a Raila supporter; what followed was a targeted channeling of misinformation to the individuals. Most opposition supporters would receive negative and fake news about their opposition leader and a lot of positive information about the incumbent president and his government (Chege, 2018). This messages targeted the young vibrant generation who are active on social media, the company would go to an extent of provided cheap data consuming social media platforms where data could easily be harvested and misused without the individuals ever finding about it. The young supporters would be swayed into believing the fake news on the media and this had a result on the election’s outcome. The company confirmed that the 2013 elections in Kenya was a big success in the Eastern Africa region; this happened after the controversial 2007 elections that led to violence (Cadwalladr ; Graham-Harrison, 2018).
In Nigeria, the government has set up a committee that will investigate the role of Cambridge Analytica in the 2007 and 2015 election. The western Africa country suspects that the ruling party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) violated a couple of laws during the elections where they had a landslide win. Over 50 million Facebook users whose data was harvested by the company was used in many elections in the world and Nigeria was one of them. The company even hacked the opposition leader’s account and personal record so that the dirt in him can be exposed and as a result, the support he had would diminish while the other candidate increases his support base (Chege, 2018). The same narrative of fake news and anti-opposition rallies and campaign through social media was put into place in the country, the opposition leader was portrayed as a leader that will enforce the ‘Sharia Law’ which most Nigerians were against, and this reduced the support base of the opposition tremendously.
The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom is believed to be influenced by Cambridge Analytica; the Brexit campaign involved the voting of the United Kingdom against or for the company. Christopher Wylie, the individual behind the revelation of the data misuse, revealed that the company aided in the official Vote Leave campaign during the referendum. The Vote Leave and Be Leave campaigns hired a small data firm from Canada called Aggregate IQ (Cadwalladr, 2017). The Aggregate IQ (AIQ) data firm swayed the referendum results as it is an active online campaigner. The involvement of AIQ is confirmed through the provided details of money being wired to the company by pro-Brexit groups prior to the happening of the referendum. Cambridge Analytica is linked to this data privacy scandal through AIQ’s seeking consultation from the company.
The whistle blower confirmed that Cambridge Analytica was the parent firm of AIQ as the company could not run without the presence of Cambridge Analytica. This is because Cambridge Analytica provided that data that AIQ used in the swaying of the referendum. Wylie told the UK parliamentary committee that the Canadian hired data company AIQ could not run on its own, it relied on the data provided by Cambridge Analytica and that during the Brexit referendum, the companies shared information with AIQ taking much from Cambridge Analytica (Cadwalladr & Graham-Harrison, 2018). Cambridge Analytica provided all the needed data of the residents of the United Kingdom through harvesting from Facebook. The data harvested violated the privacy business ethics that Facebook is supposed to uphold as a hub for the private information of its users.
Facebook’s Stand on Cambridge Analytica’s Data Harvesting
The outbreak of the privacy saga put Facebook on the spotlight about its business ethics with regard to data harvesting by Cambridge Analytica. Mr. Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO, confirmed that the Cambridge Analytica gained access to tens of millions of Facebook users legally but breached the contract when the data was shared by a third party, in this case the use in swaying elections and other voting in the world. Facebook denied any claims of allowing the data firm to use the personal data of the people to conduct other third party operations.
Facebook amid the scandal detached itself from other applications which shared data from the firm in order to operate; this applications included dating and gaming applications mostly. Mr. Zuckerberg has commenced a data security check which will ensure that the privacy of Facebook users is kept private as per the privacy act.
In the contemporary society with modern technology, one can harm you with information gathered without your knowledge. Business ethics covers the right to privacy and use of data with the knowledge of the owner of the data (Bucholtz ; Carroll, 2012). Cambridge Analytica violated all the privacy policies it had set for its operation and those of Facebook and its users.