I was watching the weekday edition of MTP Daily (Meet the Press) with Chuck Todd on MSNBC with my mom today. During today’s episode, Mr. Todd got an important point wrong. He asked, paraphrasing, can Russia be this intelligent and sophisticated to hack that deep into American’s user data?
Why Hack Your Computer When I Can Get Your Data For FREE?!
There is a component missing in this conversation. In addition to “hackers” creating fake Facebook and Twitter accounts and propagating “fake” information, both companies provide their users with the tools to target very specific demographics, FREE!
Anybody with a Facebook page and an understanding of how to create a Facebook ad campaign understands how important using this tool is as part of an overall marketing strategy. It’s not all that sophisticated; it’s marketing.
The tool is called the “Facebook Audience Insights Tool.” The audience insights tool is open to anyone looking to advertise to an audience on the social network. Twitter has a very similar advertising tool.
For a small business, like mine, understanding how to advertise directly to my target audience on Facebook is critical to success. Once I know my audience’s demographics (age, gender, interests, etc.), I just need to come up with a clever headline and create an engaging campaign with the purpose of driving a specific and clear call to action.
If you want to affect public opinion – specifically, a target audience of people with a particular political persuasion in swing states – all you need to know are the topics, interests, and pages people like to align with their views. Then during a high-profile event, such as a debate during the presidential election, just launch a Facebook ad campaign from your page.
It’s fair to say, “in the wrong hands, these tools are dangerous” (quote source unknown). Once you create a “fake news” video campaign and target that ad directly to your target audience, you just need a big ad buy. Actually, a good ad buy of about $800 for a single campaign will do the trick.
Then, push out your campaign to that target audience during a high profile event when folks are sitting in front of their television and glued to Facebook on their smartphone.
We keep pointing fingers at politicians for their corruption and outside agents like Russia, looking for someone else to place blame. What we’re overlooking is the simple fact that nobody in Russia, Washington, or anywhere else in the world, needs to hack your computer to find your personal data.
Why waste their time, spending billions of dollars hacking into your personal information when they can just step up to any computer, pull up Facebook, and figure out your demographic based on your interests and all the other facts you’ve shared on social media?
American Culpability, Social Media, and Calculated Statistics
When you sign up for an account on social media – regardless if it’s Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, or Pinterest – as long as you’re sharing your personal data, your paying for their service as rented property with your interests, information, and statistics.
We have to remember; we’ve been giving our information freely to Facebook and Twitter for years. There’s enough data to target you without ever needing to know your credit card number, password, phone number, email, or even your name. At this point, you’re not a name, your just a calculated statistic to target a direct message of influence.