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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/23/18

Cyber State: No Citizen Is Safe

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The recent Cambridge Analytica revelation, although it's not new , brings into stark relief the reality of statehood, citizenship, and cyber technology in the world today. You're no longer a citizen of a particular country, you're either a member of a massive social network called Facebook, or you're not. If you're a citizen of Facebook, power brokers and companies can monitor you and harvest your data in an effort to sway you in their favor. If you're not a Facebook citizen, the cyber state can still build a shadow profile on you based on the data of Facebook users who are your friends. Facebook's shadow profiles , which are currently part of multiple class action lawsuits, exemplify this.

Facebook tried to avoid a suit by Illinois residents over its biometric data, moving the case to San Francisco and arguing it hasn't done any harm. But Facebook will still have to stand trial for ignoring the fact that Illinois state citizens have a "property interest" in their biometric data. In other words, Illinois has a law that says Facebook can't use an algorithm to gather biometric data on its citizens without notifying them and giving them the right to decline or opt in and profit from the data. Facebook ignored this law because, to Facebook, people's citizenship in one state or another and the inherent rights thereof don't matter. What matters to Facebook is how the network can use data from users to make money from companies.

One of these companies happened to be Cambridge Analytica, which used Facebook and its users as a tool on behalf of Russia and Trump. On the other side of the coin, former Obama campaign staffer Carol Davidsen tweeted about how the Obama campaign was "able to suck out [Facebook's] whole social graph, but [Facebook] didn't stop us once they realized what we were doing."

On one hand, there's a cyber state that comprises individuals from a number of countries, including Russia, England (Cambridge Analytica's parent company, Strategic Communications Laboratories, is based in London, and Wikileaks' Julian Assange is holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy there), and America. Individuals from multiple other countries are doubtlessly involved. Members of this cyber state are all interested in using technology to disrupt America's democratic process. They also want to break up the EU.

On the other hand, there's the cyber state represented by the DNC and any of its allies in the EU. This group hasn't figured out how to be nearly as handy with their cyber influence as the Putin-Trump camp. If they had, Trump wouldn't have become president even though he lost the popular vote by more votes than John Kerry did against Bush.

Then there's the cyber state that operates on the Dark Web and includes hackers, cybercriminals, and guns-for-hire. These mercenaries will turn against anyone as long as the money's right. When it comes to cyber ethics, the door swings both ways: an estimated 73 percent of Americans have been victims of cybercrime, but America is also the source of the most spam in the world, accounting for 11.43 percent, while Russia comes in fourth in spam output at 7.52 percent. While America wrings its hands about Russian interference in our election, our companies put out the most spam. Spam goes to inboxes all over the world.

Companies like Facebook, Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft are their own cyber states. They're part of the 54 percent of U.S. companies that have involvement in foreign markets. Operating worldwide under a variety of jurisdictions and subject to a variety of laws, their primary goal is to make as much money as possible while maintaining brand image by not breaking too many laws. Tellingly, 53 percent of CEOs for globally active companies are concerned about bribery and corruption. In Facebook's case, the network has been acting much like the cyber mercenaries that operate on the Dark Web, only Facebook's been doing it in plain sight. Quite simply, if you're Facebook, compiling user data and selling it to anyone puts you in a place where your data-mining will be used for nefarious purposes, such as influencing an election.

In the case of Cambridge Analytica, Facebook says the firm violated its terms when it used Aleksandr Kogan's app to harvest user data. Facebook is now banning Cambridge Analytica and everyone involved, including the whistleblower Christopher Wylie, but there's no doubt the network knew about this privately before it came to light in the press.

Facebook has been telling us along how it uses our data. But now we're outraged about just what that can entail. We're seeing the results of when a cyber state like Putin-Trump-Cambridge Analytica uses a cyber state for-hire like Facebook to do its bidding. Until lawmakers pass a law against data mining and selling, there won't be an end to this. Even if Facebook stops on its own accord, another source will step up. The money's just too good, and you can guarantee no one at Facebook or any of the other networks that furnished data to Russia is going to prison for this. It's time to pull the plug on these cyber states.

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