A Scary Scandal
In 2013, NESTA created ‘A Manifesto For The Creative Economy’ where they made ten proposals. One of these was to create an open internet by monitoring market abuse and addressing concerns swiftly. However, the recent Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal could suggest they have failed in this proposal. In light of this event, we must question if NESTA’s proposals have any real influence when this blatant abuse of the internet went on for so many years?
Cambridge Analytica uses data, in their own words “to change audience behaviour”. For four years, they were able to harvest Facebook user’s data, from their birthdates to their interests, and even their private conversations. They accessed user’s information through an app which was used through Facebook. This data was consequently used to target users based on their personal information. Shockingly this information was used was to target people with political messages. One of the company’s clients were none other than Donald Trump, whose campaign to become the president involved using this data. The company boasts about their influential achievements in a video on their website, which can be seen below.
It was not until March 2018 that the actions of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook became public. A former employee of Cambridge Analytica spoke out against the practices, and also gave evidence to the British government.
What Could Have Been Done?
NESTA’s ‘A Manifesto For A Creative Economy’ had proposed that Ofcom should be given more power to monitor activity on the internet to act as a ‘warning system’ for potential abuses of power. To do this Ofcom would coordinate with the Information Commissioner’s Office on data protection issues. However, this clearly wasn’t executed in the case of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Does this not show that the Manifesto has had no effect on the future of the creative economy?
The Manifesto made it clear that NESTA were aware of the potential breaches to people’s privacy on social media sites, and that these could result in users being targeted. Thus, why were there not precautions to ensure Facebook could not underhandedly obtain 87 million people’s private data?
This form of data harvesting is illegal in a number of countries including in the United Kingdom. Cambridge Analytica are currently being investigated by many European countries, in addition to America. However, this is too little, too late. NESTA should have played a role in protecting the creative economy, however the Manifesto failed to highlight the corruption which was taking place on the internet. How can the creative economy continue to thrive if there is no safeguarding in place to protect it?
The digital economy is worth £118 billion, this figure is set to increase in the years to come. It is an important part of the creative economy, therefore it is essential the internet is an open and safe space. Facebook alone has 2.2 billion users, it is essential that their personal data is protected.
NESTA acknowledged in the Manifesto that it is ultimately “for the Government to decide” if there were going to be further steps taken to protect the internet. Does this prove that NESTA has no real power to influence the creative economy? It does point to the fact that one of the key voices about the creative economy is not helping to sustain it. Therefore, unless something is going to change, we must ask will the creative economy continue to thrive?
All photos taken from pixabay.com, licensed under the creative commons zero (CC0) license