Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Outside Cambridge Analytica and Facebook

It is only a five-minute walk between the Cambridge Analytica HQ in New Oxford Street (above) and the newly opened Facebook offices in Rathbone Square (below). Following reports in the Guardian that Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of 50 million Facebook users without their permission to build a system that could target US voters in the presidential election, and had links to Leave groups in the Brexit referendum, the press had descended.

There is a handily placed cafe across the street from the Cambridge Analytica HQ: from it there's a good view (buses permitting) of the media scrum waiting for a warrant to be served so the premises could be searched by data watchdogs. I drew from the cafe window alongside two weary trainee journalists – out of place among the tourists and the shoppers – who had been sent to watch and wait.

By the time I got to draw the Facebook offices a few days later, the warrant had been granted, and Cambridge Analytica's offices had been searched. There is a pristine newness about the Facebook complex, and the surrounding retails units are still being fitted out. While the company's share price fell, there was no media presence here and nothing to suggest it was anything other than business as usual.

I've always had an uneasy relationship with Facebook, and although I have deleted my account before, I'm currently still on it. Interacting through Facebook involves sharing your data with what is, in effect, an advertising company, and that will always involve give and take. Except with the arrival of Trump and Brexit, it seems to me that there has been too much take.


storyteller said...

James. I'm Michael.
I had shut down my Fb account (is it possible to delete it totally?). I only revived it to join USk Oxford. I recently posted this on the USk Oxford Fb site:

Are there platforms other than this one that Urban sketchers do business through? Fb is a platform whose CEO calls it's users "D*mb F*cks" for trusting him with their privacy (Who am I to disagree with him?) and the use of which the UN have directly implicated in the Myanmar government genocide of the Rohinga people with no intervention by Fb re Hate Speech etc. I only started reusing Fb to join USK. Any alternatives?

Our USk organiser responded by researching how to create a blog for us to use.

I like your activist initiative in using your art and your blog to record the issues and their location. I'm interested in reportage. I'm visiting the Bradford Peace Museum 13.04.18 to see the opening of Jill Gibbon's exhibition of drawings she has done when infiltrating Arms Fairs. She has a new book coming out about her art and it's theoretical under-pinnings (don't know details yet - personal communication). She is interviewed in Reportage Illustration - visual journalism by Embury + Minichiello (2018) Bloomsbury.

James Hobbs said...

Hi Michael. Thanks for your message. Yes, it is possible to delete your FB account permanently (although they don't make it easy). Here's a link to the Guardian website about how to do this:
I'm in a similar situation to you: I'd rather not be on FB, but I'm still on it because of USk and some good out-of-the-country friends who use it to communicate.
USk is on Twitter and Instagram, as well as FB. London USk has a blog also, but blogs don't get the interactivity that FB evidently does. Alternatives to FB: here's a link (another Guardian one, sorry) suggesting alternatives:
I heard Jill Gibbon talking at a recent House of Illustration panel discussion - I didn't know her work - and am going to review Minichiello and Embury's book on the USk website (when the copy comes). (I included a section on Mario and his work in my book, Sketch Your World.)