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The Great Hack – a documentary with a huge impact

I was really looking forward to the release of this documentary. I had followed the media storm on the Cambridge Analytica issue very closely and therefore my expectations for this documentary were quite high.

I have to admit that when I finally saw the documentary, it blow me away. 
In the newspapers you often only see the most recent news, not the stories behind that news. In this documentary they went in searching for what was behind that news. They did this from the perspective of David Carroll. He is an American professor who took up the fight against Cambridge Analytica. What he wanted was very simple: an answer to the question of what happened to his personal data.

The Great Hack is mainly about the role that data played during the American elections in 2016 and the entire Brexit saga. The makers of the documentary largely followed Brittany Kaiser in addition to the story of David’s lawsuit against Cambridge Analytica. She is a former director of corporate affairs at the SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. It is very impressive to see how she talks about her time at that company but apart from the fact that she admits a lot of things, including her mistakes and those of the company, she seems like a very cold person to me.

As I said, The Great Hack is mainly about how data was used during the American election campaign and the Brexit campaign. However, this documentary exposes a much bigger puzzle of what’s wrong with the way that data is used. It only uses these 2 events to explain the puzzle.

The directors of the documentary also raise some fundamental and existential questions about big data. Suddenly you feel guilty for being lax about ‘cookies’ or the famous ‘Terms & Conditions’. It was incredibly frightening to see and realize that companies like Facebook and Google, who want to connect the world and help it to move forward, can put the world against each other in a very scary way. It showed once again which power they actually have. Something that was also mentioned in the report was the fact that there are actually no laws about data use. This makes it even more complicated, companies use the data as a toy, while this is actually much more. When you hear what Kaiser is saying, how much personal information they can get about you as a person and how they used this to release Fake-News on your own timeline, it proves to me that data is something incredibly powerful, something dangerous.

The conclusion of this report is that data rights are human rights. The directors make this point very clear and they do it very convincingly. The documentary made me look at data and privacy in a completely different way. I’m not easily overwhelmed by such reports, but this documentary overwhelmed me at a whole new level. I mostly had issues with the impact that data can have and how unscrupulously companies like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica deal with this. It is high time that clear laws are written. Those laws should be international because that’s what makes data legislation so complex. The EU already took a big step with the introduction of the GDPR in 2018, other countries should follow this example. The GDPR is a positive first step.

I also think that the government should launch campaigns to make people aware of data and online privacy. It can indeed help mankind to evolve, just think of the many positive medical applications that this can offer, but it can also have many negative consequences and these negative consequences should be made clear to everyone.

I myself have a few suggestions to make. First of all, websites and apps should be obliged to make their Terms & Conditions shorter and more powerful. It is logical that no one will read a 140-page document, but if this is reduced to a much lower number of pages with only the important points, more people will be aware of what the website or app will do with their data. In addition, there are lessons to be planned in secondary schools on how to be aware of websites and apps, and the consequences of being too lax about them should also be made clear. Making The Great Hack as a mandatory documentary would be a good start.

The Great Hack is a must-see for anyone who wants to know clearly what data means and what the consequences may be. If you’re planning to watch, prepare to stay behind with a sense of disbelief. But don’t try to see the report too negatively, more and more people are aware of the impact of data and this is a positive fact. 

PS: You can find the documentary on Netflix.

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