2018-04-18 Clint Howen

Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and You

Give up singing Ed, Data mining is where the money is at!

The data scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica has really been a huge story.

It’s kicked off new debates in politics, law, and tech, and also impacted on a personal level too.

At the end of 2017 it was estimated Facebook had 2.2 billion accounts around the world. Some of them are duplicates, others rarely used – but essentially anywhere in the world that has free and open internet, you’ll find people using Facebook.


Facebook has a long history of peeving privacy advocates, and this story took it a new level. But while #quitfacebook hashtags have popped up, and celebrities like Elon Musk have called it quits, until MySpace Tom makes a return Facebook will remain the default social media of choice.


That’s why it’s really important we have a chat about Hero Broker’s take on data collection. And how you can take charge of your data use in daily life. This is not only an important issue for the online community, it’s also very near and dear to my team at Hero Broker. Let’s get into it.




Though this scandal is the biggest in its history, Facebook has form in this field. Over the years they’ve had a number of dramas arise, and criticism levelled at it, surrounding how they use data. Especially because the reasonable man or woman on the street would find it sketchy.


When you sign up for a Facebook account, it’s accepted you need provide an email address.
You’ll also usually provide details like your name, location, and job so other friends can find you.

You might even provide your birthday, phone number, and a number of hobbies to fill your profile.


Because Facebook is user friendly, and used so often in our daily life, many people don’t really look deep into how the platform (and others like it) operate. And sure, part of that is because there’s always a few weirdos around wearing tin foil hats saying Facebook is not a data danger, but also has Bigfoot, Elvis, and the Loch Ness monster all hidden away at its office.

It’s for other people to make the call on how good or bad Facebook’s behaviour is from a moral point of view, but from a technical point of view it can absolutely be called unnecessary.  


Facebook doesn’t need to collect all the data it has to give you a social media service, so why does it collect it?


The Data Drama


Facebook is free to use, and like other big online services that are free to use – Google Docs anyone? – these tech giants collect data that they use to lure advertisers. In some respects this is not an unfair deal.


For example, if you sign up on Facebook and say you live in Melbourne, getting an advertisement for the annual Formula One Grand Prix can be a win-win.  The advertisers get to target a Melbourne audience who is likely to buy a ticket to the event, and Melburnians find out about the latest ticketing offers while Facebooking.


But it becomes an issue when a social media site clearly goes way beyond this.


Such as when:

  1. A business sells your data to another provider without your permission
  2. A business is so reckless about what data is collected to be in breach of the law
  3. When your data is used in a way a reasonable person would feel is out of bounds


These issues are seen across many businesses right now. They can vary from big business to small, but a common feature of them all is they share the same attitude towards your data.


That provided you don’t kick up a fuss, and what you don’t know won’t hurt you, they can more or less do what they please and make money off your personal information.

This Sleeping Giant Awakes


The story of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica is the headline act right now, but is also at the forefront of a growing debate surrounding the personal use of information. The past decade has seen an explosion in the use of social media.


In 2007 the iPhone was released. In 2008 Twitter really hit the mainstream, and the 2008 U.S. presidential election that saw Barack Obama get up was called ‘the first social media election’.

Then YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Co rolled on the scene. This alongside a number of existing businesses shifting to online operations where they data-grab.


By no means is data collection always bad for the individual. Most of us love the use of GPS maps everyday to get where we need to go, and a lot of location-based services can be A+ when it comes to finding us the perfect cafe or late night kebab spot.


But it is unacceptable when business just presumes it can do a raid on your personal info.
And especially when they then try keep under wraps what they use your data for and why.

Oh sure, on signup you click I agree on a 200 page T&C doc so businesses are in the clear legally when it comes to their data policies. But the current culture isn’t really agreeable, eh?

Right now the pendulum has swung far in the favour of digital advertising over individual privacy.

My team and I reckon this is not on. And we’re proud to be an Aussie platform that plays it fair.


Good Data versus Bad Data


We believe transparency is really important in this new era. And we want to ensure we do our part in it, and lead from the front.

That’s why I’m happy to write to you today about how we use your data. I have no interest in running a business that isn’t fair dinkum with our users about what we do.

I think for a long, long time, the mortgage industry and many brokers have been all about keeping things vague and opaque, and not being straight up with people about how they operate.


We use your data at Hero Broker. We take it, and collate it, mix and match it.


But we do it give you a clear and direct return

When you use Hero Broker, and give us data, you’re going to get a great mortgage at the end.

And then if you want to know how your data is used at the start, through the process, or at end?

Well you can see exactly how it works right here: Hero Broker Privacy Policy

Hero Broker operates with a goal to give you a great mortgage, and give all Australians the chance at getting a great mortgage.

To ease the squeeze a little on people buying a home.

And also to provide an alternative to obscenely expensive brokers who charge a huge fee.

We need to use your data to do that, but we do it because you’ve a need to use our platform.

And we value your data, because we value you.

That’s why we’re happy to pay for your data. When you pay for something you signify its value.

And that’s a really important point. A simple one, but important. And the contrast here is big.


A lot of social media sites think they can just have your data for free because it’s (apparently!) not important to you, and because of that they don’t feel any need to recognise its value. And that’s been a huge and growing problem in recent years.


Time to Take Charge


We are proud of our approach at Hero Broker, and we think this approach is useful elsewhere.

At the end of the day, your data is money for the many businesses that use it unscrupulously.

And because you generate money for them? You have the power to take charge, and call it out.

This is not just some feel good rallying cry that doesn’t amount to much. Australia already has some pretty robust laws surrounding privacy.

And beyond our shores, places like the European Union with the new GDPR laws have implemented tighter rules surrounding what businesses can do with your data.


So you take charge today and begin to push back a bit in this post-Cambridge Analytica era on businesses that just presume they can have all your data, all the time, no questions asked.

Many businesses now recognise a shift is set to get underway. It’s up to everyday Aussies (and any Hero Broker fan who may be reading this from further afield) to help drive this change.

We make progress here, and get it right, and it’s a good outcome for business and consumers.


Make the Call


So if you are unhappy with how your data is used? Call it out.

If you don’t know how your data is used? Call up and ask.

And if you don’t get answers? Call for help! Hop on social media and tell us your story.