Invading privacy is how social media makes money

If you want an idea of the magnitude of the privacy scandal involving Facebook, consider this: There are about 117 million households in the United States, according to the Census Bureau.

As many as 87 million people, most in this country, had personal data collected by Facebook accessed by Cambridge Analytica, Facebook admitted this week. The information allegedly was used to benefit political candidates, including President Donald Trump.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted the privacy scandal was “a huge mistake … my mistake.”Zuckerberg.

Senators on Tuesday, grilled Zuckerberg during a hearing in Washington. An apologetic Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told members of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees it had been “clearly a mistake” to believe the Trump-linked data-mining company Cambridge Analytica had discarded data that it had harvested from social media users in an attempt to sway 2016 elections.

Zucerberg said Facebook considered the data collection “a closed case” because it thought the information had been deleted. Facebook didn’t alert the Federal Trade Commission, Zuckerberg said, and he assured senators the company would handle the situation differently today.

Lost in the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal is the fact that most social media operations rely on data mining for their profits. They collect information about users and sell it to marketing firms, among others.

Facebook appears to be attempting to clean up its act — to an extent. It will provide users with more information about data collection and more opportunities to opt out of it.

But the bottom line is that invading privacy in ways small and large keeps some social media companies in business. Users ignore that at their peril.