Did Cambridge Analytica Help to Create ‘Digital Wokeness’?

Kids born in 2019 will be the most tracked humans in history. It’s predicted that by the time they turn eighteen, 70,000 posts about them will be in the internet ether. How and what you post about your child is a personal choice, but trusting that tech companies aren’t building dossiers on our children, starting with that first birth announcement, is a modern-day digital civil right we need to demand. As a mother myself, I want my children’s privacy to be a priority for tech makers.

I used to feel pretty lonely in that endeavor but over the last 12 months, I’ve noticed a trend: more and more people are talking about privacy. They’re calling out the companies that don’t take people’s online privacy seriously enough. They’re sharing articles detailing cover-ups and breaches. They’ve told me they want more privacy online and yet, feel trapped by the Terms of Service of the big platforms they need to use.

I think of this frustration as ‘digital wokeness’. And it’s the one good thing that came out of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Though we’ve heard the reporting numerous times, let’s recall that from one personality quiz taken by 270,000 people, 87 million Facebook accounts were accessed. Tens of millions of people (maybe you) did not knowingly give permission for their information to be shared or manipulated by political operatives with questionable ethics.

We still don’t know exactly how this data collection and subsequent microtargeting of political content influenced our democratic process. But Cambridge Analytica is just one example. Everyday we hear about another undisclosed data breach. Private information being collected, sometimes sold, and given away without our knowledge or consent. CEOs sit before Congress saying they will “do better” while stories continue to break about negligence and wrong-doing.

Just what exactly is happening?

Breaches are just a symptom of the problem. The fundamentals of the relationship between customers and these companies are broken. I recently took the helm of the podcast IRL: Online Life is Real Life and spoke to Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism who explained further how most tech companies have built their businesses on the data they collect by tracking their users’ behavior. “We all need to better grasp what the trade offs really are, because once you learn how to modify human behavior at scale, we’re talking about a kind of power now invested in these private companies,” she told me. I know. The situation is messed up and it makes you want to put your head in the sand and give up on digital privacy.

Please don’t do that. Fixing our online privacy problem requires both individual and collective action. Support organizations pressuring Congress and Silicon Valley to begin to claw back our digital civil rights and take some simple steps right now to protect your families and send a message to tech companies.

Listen to IRL: The Surveillance Economy

Yes, doing these things is annoying and tedious but it does matter:

Be more choosy about your technology. There’s no need to go “off the grid,” but choosing products and companies that respect you and your data – like the Firefox browser and DuckDuckGo search engine – sends an important message to big companies that largely prioritize their shareholders over their customers. These smaller, user-focused apps and services have put ethics at the heart of their businesses and deserve to be downloaded.

Become a privacy settings ninja. Most sites and apps have privacy settings you can access, but they tuck them away several tabs deep. In a user-centric world, the default settings would take your privacy preferences into account and make them easier to update. Right now, as you’ve likely experienced, finding and adjusting your privacy settings is just hard enough that most of us give up or get distracted midway through trying to figure out what to click where. Gird yourself and press on! Try a data detox and reset your privacy options, step-by-step.

Listen to IRL: Your Password is the Worst

Educate yourself on how your data is accessed. Easier said than done, I know. That’s why I created a five-part bootcamp. The Privacy Paradox Challenge (from my Note to Self days) is a week of mini-podcasts and personal challenges that can help you get insight into how vast the issue is and how to get your privacy game on point.

On a recent episode of IRL, I spoke to Ellen Silver, VP of Operations at Facebook regarding the ever louder conversation about Facebook’s ethics. She assured me that Facebook is working to be more transparent. A few weeks later her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, made his 2019 New Year’s Resolution to “host a series of public discussions about the future of technology in society.” But we’ve heard promises from Facebook and other tech companies before. Let’s make sure they talk about privacy. Let’s continue asking all of the tech companies harder questions. And let’s start using our spending power to support companies that take our data as seriously as we do. Those are the next steps in this growing conversation about privacy. And that is indeed progress.

Firefox keeps your data safe. Never Sold.

Download Firefox

Manoush Zomorodi is co-founder of Stable Genius Productions, a media company with a mission to help people navigate personal and global change. In addition to hosting Firefox’s IRL podcast, Manoush hosts Zig Zag, a podcast about changing the course of capitalism, journalism, and women’s lives. Investigating how technology is transforming humanity is Manoush’s passion and expertise. In 2017, she wrote a book, “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Creative Self” and gave a TED Talk about surviving information overload and the “Attention Economy.” She was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2018.

To hear more from Manoush, sign up for her newsletter.

67 comments on “Did Cambridge Analytica Help to Create ‘Digital Wokeness’?”

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  1. Tony R wrote on

    Thanks for the wonderful article. It’s so surprising how willing people are to give up their privacy for a little convenience.


  2. june wrote on

    All these articles about data and privacy breaches but nary a mention about google, probably one of the worst offenders. Seems like facebook is the scapegoat here — just saying!


  3. Gary wrote on

    They learned all about privacy from trump.


  4. Rpobert Kmiec wrote on

    Unsure if I have the most recent version of Firefox? How do I tell?


  5. Morgan chowa sakala wrote on

    i love to you use mozilla firefox


  6. Rosalie Steward wrote on

    Let me see more.


  7. Laura Steed wrote on

    I thought it was very interesting to read and to know more.


  8. Gord McDonald wrote on

    BEWARE of all the stores and other companies that have customer cards for saving points, money or any other freebe. They build a data base which they try to influence your spending with or just plain sell the information. Data bases are made for data mining. Even credit card spending becomes a buying data base. Nothing but nothing is safe. Don’t trust anything that is free.


  9. Nancy wrote on

    I was on Facebook briefly last year, just chatted with two of my cousin’s who live far away. Then I permanently deleted my account. I saw no further purpose in using it. If I want to talk to someone I can just call them. I am well aware of what Zuckerburg has been doing. Selling your information is really a crime.


  10. TB wrote on

    The Cambridge event is the 2nd mis-use of my data by Big Tech for partisan politics.

    The first and worst was the totally unauthorized use of my and millions of others’ data to elect pres obama. His staff etc was lauded for innovative use if high tech by the media.

    I fear the only marginal action is to do as ATT and standard oil – break them up into less than 10 percent market shares.

    Any regulation eventually just protects incumbent companies and bars innovative upstarts…, that is why Z wants regulation.
    Bust them up Google, FB, for the protection of the republic and to avoid their repeated manipulation of our elections by their opinion shaping!


  11. Veronika Thananan wrote on

    I just love your article as it is very clear and consumer friendly – just like all of Mozilla itself…


  12. Edward Parker PA ’56 wrote on

    For clarity I would like to know what “digital wokeness” means. I know what woke means, but I think that few people find it helpful in many cases to convey a meaning. As for privacy I think we individuals have a hard time remaining private. As long as billions can be made harvesting information about us and selling it or using it to sell products, Facebook and Google and Microsoft and Apple are going to fight against any legislation that would improve privacy. Lobbyists for these and other companies work night and day to make sure we cannot have privacy. How many times do we have to see Facebook fail on privacy before people realize they aren’t going to fix something that helps FB to make billions? Free email is not free. I love Gmail and don’t like the idea of giving it up. But I know Google collects a ton of information about my friends, relatives and myself from this “free” service. And clearly Google could not make Gmail free if it didn’t derive revenue from the service.
    Who of us who love Firefox knows how much Mozilla gets in revenue by providing this web browser for free? I would rather pay Mozilla and be guaranteed you would try hard to keep my browser activity private.


  13. Lincoln Wilson wrote on

    “Fixing our online privacy problem requires both individual and collective action”; translates into “we the consumer must have to pay more money to support online collectors of our information to help them protect it”. A cost to the consumer either way.

    Make the collector responsible for the Identity theft or misuse of that information and they will find a way to protect or not collect it.


  14. clifford keni wrote on

    Good 2C that FireFox is not an ostrich in Firefox’s clothing when it comes 2customers feelings Firefox’s concerns are of the highest standards n 2b applauded no burying head in the Sand with FireFox


  15. Steve wrote on

    Just looking for a quick how to article for Protecting privacy with currently available tools. For instance a simple way to identify and remove tracking cookies. Currently we just have remove all cookies. If you remove all cookies, then that is a real headache. Also, a simple way to know the open connections and easily readable to whom they go and for what purpose. Width user ability to shut down. What can’t we use Build technology that puts the user back in charge with defenses and data available to us for protection


  16. Ms.Ammo wrote on

    I love Moz:lla


  17. Larry G.Dickey wrote on

    Let the power people that we do want privacy.


  18. ashby sydnor wrote on

    Mix some harmless tracer bullets in your infomation that will make the user look stupid.


  19. Ron wrote on

    You always talk about security yet anyone who’s interested can see what sites we visit, who we speak to, etc, etc, when we’re online. There are things called VPNs that stop people from seeing our location…couldn’t something like this be incorporated into Firefox to protect your users..??
    Also, I don’t use DuckDuckGo but I guess it has no more security/privacy than Firefox..?


  20. William Clarke wrote on

    Always hoping I am safe online. I am putting my faith in FIREFOX.


  21. Kristinn Fridjonsson wrote on



  22. Kua wrote on

    I am using GoGoDuck, but ads still follow me around.

    I have email protection.

    What else can I do?


  23. Colin wrote on

    A fire broke out in the jungle, and all the animals just ran away, including Mr Elephant, Mr Tiger and even Mr lion. But only the Humming bird went down to the river, filled his beak water and tried to put the fire out.
    Our best option is to ignore the big dominating monopolizing companies. But what alternative do we actually have. I personally need an option to use a different email to get far away from the popular ones, but I find so few or no options.


  24. Andrew Parton wrote on

    While your message is worthwhile and the article compelling, the reader, (with all of the Firefox download links and your specific mentions) very quickly decides that this is a sales piece and drops away.
    The topic is important. You just need to send it out on a more generic level. Mentioning that Firefox does not collect data (although i’m not sure that they dont) would be enough. Continual download links is overkill.


  25. Paul F. Docka wrote on

    As an old man fast approaching 70, a retired military man of 26 years active, and involved with the internet and PCs since they first hit the streets, I’m embarrassed that the situation has gotten so far out of control. I’d like to believe the Gates and Zuckerbergs of this world with the naive view that it will all work out in the end but, they made their money and why should they care. I know you can’t easily get the genie back in the bottle but, somebody that is credible needs to holler loudly that a problem is coming.


  26. John A G Clements wrote on

    Looking forward to using all Mozilla as to offer


  27. Samuel Heffner wrote on

    This is a real good one for you to follow Microsoft, right McAfee


    1. See above!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For Microsoft wrote on

      I though it was very good after the problems that I have had with Microsoft


  28. Sarah Traylor wrote on



  29. Ben wrote on

    Hi Manoush,
    I’ve been following your work since “Note To Self” was a feature on WNYC. (in the current climate, that’s like 50 years(( in double dog years)))
    Anyway, you do terriffic work but I don’t really think the tech powers in the towers can hear us or care. I was thinking that rather than give them all of this data for free like manna from heaven, perhaps, if they started to pay users for the data they collect and maybe even inferred data, instead of the “UBI” or universal basic income that comes up now and again as a solution to the loss of work to computers amd robots, they (big tech) might begin to attach some value to our data. It seems like something like that might fit comfortably under the umbrells of the “Green New Deal”.
    Just a thought,


  30. Hamisu Halliru Nagwaggo wrote on

    Good and helpful


  31. Nabil wrote on



  32. burton schrader wrote on

    Our freedom of information via the web is being stolen for use by the professionals. They have quickly learned how to use information about us into profit and power. We are for sale to the highest bidder, not the most moral and ethical. Only those already with the most wealth who’s only goal is to get even more, whatever the cost, will be in control of our lives. Big brother is already here, big time.


  33. Jean Miller wrote on

    I don’t have a smart phone and I believe Firefox requires this.


  34. Walter Svendsen wrote on

    I don’t have Fire Fox now but I did on my old older computer and I like it. It’s time to go back and try it again. Thank You


  35. J Lambert wrote on

    If algorithms to predict behavior are now commonplace why can’t an algorithm to detect such behavior be designed? After all prediction of behavior is a kind of behavior itself.


  36. Melvin Davenport wrote on

    I hope we all can do better!


  37. Sam Bixby wrote on

    I am so happy to be the first to comment on this thread because it’s kind of a big deal? “Umm o’rly?” only in what is done with money that is given for the right reason for the right price. I have some Great admins I’m sure you could reach out to. Because cancer research is IMPORTANT. Look I think what my coworker Matt said 95% service to others, 5% to self. But I feel like even 48% acknowledgement with +1 is a whole deck to others. I’d give more too if I want critizised of short to promise


  38. Ron House wrote on

    Excellent article, I wish that I had read this article a long time ago. It makes you aware of what the big “tech” companies are doing with our data. My granddaughter posts entirely too much info on my great grandson and I am forwarding this to her. Maybe it’s not too late.


  39. Adam Ralph wrote on

    Good article, but be careful not to call users of Facebook, Google, etc. “customers”. The users are the products. They are sold to the customers, which are advertisers and suchlike.


  40. Dave holman wrote on

    The Internet is the most dangerous place on earth now.the world is looking in on all of us.we have lost our identity. I hate my computer.


  41. F.T.A. Swire wrote on

    I do not use any of the methods of coummunication of the so-called ‘Social Media’ and although I receive and (very occasionally) send e-mails I am generally averse to internet communication. I am currentrying to improve my handwriting by means of a fountain pen and sometimes consider trying to use carrier pigeons as an alternative to overland mail. Fast approaching 70 years of age I am not seriously worried about future developments about devious invasive strategies aimed at investigating my extremely boring life. I do have concerns that will affect childen and other younger adults and I definitely approve of the attempts to counteract the threats to personal privacy engineered by so-called ‘big tech’ companies.


  42. burton schrader wrote on

    When I see how the public at large are misinformed and misled and manipulated I feel sick at heart.

    We may know more about what is going on around us but our efforts to solve big problems are diverted and we are guided into a whirlpool of non action.

    The Koch Brothers use their wealth to create a world that is how they want it to be. We are almost helpless against such power.

    We need not much further that the results that Cambridge Analytica were able to deliver in the UK referendum.

    Our world view is shaped by the likes of companies such as this.

    What can we do to stop them? What can I do to help stop them?


  43. Imad Daou wrote on

    There is no Hope from corporations sold and bought by using “Stock exchange” evil platform. The stock holders has the right by law to sue their companies if they don’t make profit. The problem is our economic system. I will never trust or believe any single word said by any “Stock Exchange” corporation.


  44. Prof. Badri Prasad Misra wrote on

    We are concerned with Privacy in Internet Communication. For Signatures, I have to take a slow-moving Hard Copy Document by ordinary Postal Delivery! that is unsecured & delayed delivery at destination by that time the matter of security & privacy might expire; & communication could be wasteful!


  45. Reynaldo Salinas Molina wrote on

    Thank you, and my request.

    Please do not assume busy and productive people interested in your work can take the time to read winded messages. We do not.

    Try to limit your messages to one page 8 1/2 by 11 “, or I for one will delete them, as well as thousands others. Busy people earn unlimited money on line, we simply do not have the time.

    I just read the first two paragraphs of your message and the last one only. Thank you, Rey


  46. David Blough, Sr. US Army Ret. wrote on

    >ALL; of the PERSONAL info GATHERED by technology is either sold or stored by the US Gov. and Enemies (Russia, China, Iraq, Israel, & many other countries.
    There is no longer any privacy for US Consumers and Social Media users. Don’t believe what Big Tech and Corporations CANNOT PROTECT Your personal information.

    “Face Book” is one of the most corrupt “Entities” on the WWW right now. They Sold advertisements to Russia and China and will continue to do so, without regard for personal rights.
    Anyone who uses them needs to be aware of what Big Corporations like Amazon, Google, etc…do with your personal info.

    A good example is Cambridge Analytical —–that stored thousands of files on US Citizens allowed to take place…..Don’t be stupid !


  47. Belgacem wrote on

    Nice and good
    Thank yuor


  48. Geoff Drewell wrote on

    Look forward to your information on digital privacy that must be Secured within company’s storage data private holdings


  49. Diane Walls wrote on

    I want my info on my email spread every where


  50. Diane Walls wrote on

    I. DO NOT want my privacy on my email
    Spread everywhere


  51. peter slot wrote on

    I cannot download any of the extensions recommended.



  52. John H Maurer wrote on

    The idea that we have to depend on the big tech companies is mistaken. I am not on Facebook. I don’t tweet or use any other “social”program. I don’t use Google (I use duckduckgo) I use Firefox as my browser and Thuderbird as my email program. Libre Office is my office suite.

    I suspect the people who suck data up don’t have much on me.



  53. La Tonya wrote on

    Did Cambridge Analytica Help to Create ‘Digital Wokeness’?

    Firefox keeps your data safe. Never Sold! Really, then what is happening to Firefox, “Firefox add-on technology is modernizing so fast (i.e. Snipping Tool etc.) it seems to not, be able to keep up with itself?

    They rolled out a fix for a problem on the site that hit all users by surprise today! We rolled out a hotfix that re-enables affected add-ons. The fix will be automatically applied in the background within the next few hours. For more details, please check out the update at https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/add-ons-failing-install-firefox

    “The fix will be automatically applied in the background within the next few hours”
    Why is it available through background installation?

    I don’t have that option allowed in my Browser (Firefox Quantum ver 66.0.2) for obvious reasons!
    All of the add-ons were disabled, without notice to users! This happened today, albeit they obviously were disabled yesterday.

    Reason being that I believe this is, For two days I have been unable to document any of these options… Add-ons Updates Pages are Unprintable, Unsnippable Unscreenshootable… Why?

    Right now, I’m not feeling Firefox! How convenient… at this time! If they have known this for a while, why wait so long to notify users? With all of the AI being incorporated into apps and programs, why does it seem to be so “Stupid” in it’s deliveries?


  54. Mary Shoema wrote on

    Cambridge Analytical wasn’t the only one using online information. The DNC, Obama, many left wing organizations, professors, universities and MANY others; were using the info with Facebook’s blessing. Cambridge Analytical was a right wing organization who got the info through a professor (who was OK’ed to access any information he wanted to). The difference IS’NT information going out, it’s just Facebook was upset at WHO got access to it!


  55. Anastasios Karathanasis wrote on

    Today, 5/5/2019, I found that some add-ons have been deactivated. In my oppinion, Kaspersky protection and DuckduckGo essensials were very useful ones. Unfortunately there is no way to replace them. If you could please to recomment a similar to Kaspersky Protection I would de grateful.


  56. Justin Matthews wrote on

    Good stuff. I recommend it highly. TY


  57. George Priest wrote on

    Very informative article above, and l hope ALL younger people, born in the 80’s 90’s and beyond, read and apply with interest some of these principles.

    As for myself, l am a baby boomer, from the 50’s and watched technology change everything l grew to know and love. Now almost totally unaware of the possibilities of technology, l prefer to ‘step back ‘ and retain what l know from my youth.


  58. lon wrote on

    Interesting article on privacy on the web. We all need to fight to regain our rights to have our personal information protected. The big tech companies should be required by law to stop this blatant disrespect of violating our personal rights and to be held accountable. In the meantime do not support them. Support companies such as firefox and duckduckgo who do not have a nefarious and political goals..


  59. Pavlos N. Efthymiou wrote on

    You are doing a good job. Congratulations!

    P N Efthymiou
    Emeritus Professor AUTh


  60. gilbert cornish wrote on

    interested in keeping up on privacy changes.


  61. taqa.sisa wrote on

    with highly appreciated for your good co – operation with us

    with best regards by SISA – TAQA Security at Neyveli Team.


  62. JohnBouwmeester wrote on

    Read your article with much interest.
    Never realised it was so bad with the behaviour of the big it-tech compnies.
    Keep up the good workmof showing us people whatis happening to us.


  63. Margaret boland wrote on

    Is it possible to stop using google and choose another alternative, if so, how?



  64. David Wallace Millar wrote on

    Sorry, but I choke on the whole concept of “digital wokeness”. Admittedly, I am a lifelong student (and fan) of the (admittedly mongrel) English language, both historical and linguistic.

    This, my personal icon, is defaced daily but the adoption of such Jap-sucking words as “tsunami” as if it were a more “accurate” and/or “scientific” word than the ages-old English phrase “tidal wave”. That is as arrogant as it is IDIOTIC.

    The apparent fact that its Japanese meaning of “harbor wave” is no excuse for its political “correctness”. Its idiot anti-English pseudo-scientific advocates who brought forward the argument that “tidal” means ‘moon caused’ are simply ignorant of English. And vain enough to think they have got it ‘right’, and the history of the world is wrong.

    However, the root of the word ‘tidal’ is the Old English word ‘tid’, which very accurately means “an unspecified but specific time period between instances”. This is a very precise application to the occurrences of the tides across the world. Folks would say, “I don’t know exactly when or how high the tide will be, but I am certain it is coming”.

    Moreover, it is elegant, beautiful and accurate to describe a great wave as ‘tidal’, because that evokes in the mind what would be common knowledge of not only English speakers, but what I’m told would be 90% of the Earth’s population, who have experience of both ‘waves’ and ‘tides’.

    Imagine, if you will, the occasional 50′ high tide of the B ay of Fundy, that inconceivable World of Water coming directly at you in a sudden single wave! Or, for that matter, a mere 6″ increase in tidal water scattered over 200 square miles of coastline! All at once! It is a beautiful and intuitively meaningful “allegorical” expression. The word “Allegory” is an ancient English adoption of the ancient Greek word ‘allegoria’, meaning “other speaking”, in this case using one phenomena to describe another. Power and beauty instantly evoked by common English speaking practice.

    Another common English phrase would be “Wake up, you idiot!” to alarm a person away from drifting into a potential state of unawareness of a dangerous situation. Just the ankle-breaking eager adoption of “wokefulness” as if it were new to meaning, is meaningless. So too is the alleged loss of privacy caused by “data mining”. If it were a person’s credit-card particulars and passwords that were being ‘mined’, of course, it would be a cause of a case of criminal fraud and theft, as I would characterize it.


  65. Gary Stockton wrote on

    I noticed in the article above by Manoush Zomorodi that DuckDuckGo was recommended. Then please tell me why Firefox deleted it from my Firefox browser and said it was not a trusted site that they had not signed their certificate. Also a lot of other add-ons that I have used for years without any trouble was deleted for the same reason. I know you will say it was because of security issues but my reply is Bull. There is nothing wrong with DuckDuckGo or Ant video downloader or the other 0nes I have used for so long, most of which were recommended by Firefox to begin with. Even Yahoo was included in this list. Please have Yahoo tell me why they are not a trusted site as I cannot get in contact with them. And please tell me why Firefox keeps crashing. It usually happens at least 2-4 times while I am using it. I have already refreshed it several times and it doesn’t help.
    A very unhappy Firefox user


  66. Daryl N Davis wrote on

    Ironically (or not, given the treatment of founder Brendan Eich) Mozilla seem to be joining the censorship and surveillance brigades. Removing the Dissenter plug-in and working to steer people toward “correct” results is not a good look for a company claiming to stand for an open and transparent Internet.


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