Facebook is hardly the first company to harvest customer data and resell it. Nor does this practice always have a nefarious odour. In the case of Cambridge Analytica, consumers were paid for providing personal data, which was collected as part of a purportedly academic survey. But the survey was conducted by a third party, not Facebook itself, and data about the consumers’ friends was allegedly taken too, without the friends’ consent. Once the data was gathered it was whisked off, without anonymisation, to Cambridge Analytica, which used it to tailor political adverts aimed at the specific individuals whose data was hoovered up in the first place. Facebook users have a tremendous amount of data collected about them from the moment they start using the social network. They will not be aware of much of the information their online activities throw off. Still less will they be in a position to comprehend the variety of uses to which it might be put — and what its real value is. Some of...

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