The salient facts of the new Cambridge Analytica scandal are bad, and the optics are even worse for Facebook, which is already facing multiple battles both in legal courts and the court of public opinion. But this really is just the spilled pot of a long-boiling problem: growing discomfort within our citizen-consumer class over predatory data mining and the unaccountable shadow agencies and corporations being given access to our private lives via social networks. Big Brother has been privatized, and it may turn out to be far more dangerous than anything George Orwell predicted.
Typically, Facebook has been able to duck, dodge, juke, and jive its way out of such entanglements because of the sheer ubiquity of social media in our daily lives, the market value of the company, and its ability to manipulate public opinion. But this time is different. The company hit the politicized buzzsaw of the 2016 election, which is still grinding and sparking from accusations concerning the use of Facebook to spread propaganda (which in reality, of course, is nothing new). In other words, “Facebook’ is appearing in more and more paragraphs containing “Russia,” and in today’s climate, that is worse than a decade of privacy violations.