Monday, July 29, 2019

The Great Hack: Faces Up To Ethics and Technology in a Gripping Netflix Doc

By José Alberto Hermosillo
The Great Hack. The poster is courtesy of Netflix ©2019 Netflix.

Extraordinary and unnerving. The new Netflix original documentary “The Great Hack” is an exposé on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, manipulating information that polarized voters through Facebook and misusing data to undermine our democracy.  

The dream of a connected world became a nightmare when foreign organizations maneuvered the Brexit referendum in England and the 2016 elections in the United States, Brazil, and Myanmar. Those inconceivable victories left everyone astonished and powerless.

The Great Hack. Photo courtesy of Netflix ©2019 Netflix.

Facebook has become the digital gangster of our time. When Americans learned that social networks made millions of dollars by selling their data to Cambridge Analytica, they stopped using Facebook for good.

Companies like Cambridge Analytica developed sophisticated campaign ads. Targeting consumers’ preferences according to people’s likes, previous buys, web searches, credit card swipes, and locations - are all connected in real-time.

Digital traces of yourself became an asset tradable in the stock market, and we, the people, were converted into a valuable commodity.
The Great Hack screening. Photo  José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA.
Trading data developed into a trillion-dollar industry. Today, data surpasses oil value. Scary? Still waiting. Congress must act to shield elections and maintain the country’s integrity, democracy, and national sovereignty.

“The Great Hack” openly inquires about who feeds us with fear?

The Great Hack. Photo courtesy of Netflix ©2019 Netflix.
Searching for the truth, Academy Award nominees Karim Amer and Jehame Noujaim (“The Square”) investigated and discovered who was lying under oath by juxtaposing Facebook participation with Cambridge Analytica and Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress.
Jehame Noujaim, Karim Amer, directors of The Great Hack. Photo  José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA.
Amer and Noujaim’s extraordinary documentary focuses on three whistle-blowers: Professor David Carroll. He determined how the British company acquired the user’s information and sued Cambridge Analytica in London. This lawsuit launched the popular hashtag campaign #ownyourdata. 
The Great Hack. Photo courtesy of Netflix ©2019 Netflix.
Brittany Kaiser is another crucial witness in the case. Kaiser was an insider who got caught in all that information madness. Kaiser let people know what Cambridge Analytica was doing under the table. Before that, she served as a connection between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks to get Hillary’s emails. The scandal impacted millions of American voters. In the film, Kaiser emphatically remarked, "Data is the most valuable asset on earth.” 
The Great Hack. Photo courtesy of Netflix ©2019 Netflix.
British journalist Carole Cadwalladr is another critical player who uncovered the information warfare used by Cambridge Analytica and its alliance with Facebook. But more than a “Ted Talk,” viewers need to see the other side of the story.
The Great Hack. Photo courtesy of Netflix ©2019 Netflix.

The filmmakers of “The Great Hack” take a global approach but avoid Poland, Germany, and Mexico’s presidential elections, where the problem had more ramifications and players. The first two countries contend with a growing extreme right, while the third has an equally riskily radical left. 

The Great Hack does not explain how France stopped the online foreign intervention weeks before its election -  something the US could not accomplish years after its contentious 2016 decision.

Other crucial and political documentaries worth watching are the Palme d’Or winner “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Oscar® nominee “The War Room,” “Citizenfour,” and “We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks.”

Jehame Noujaim, Karim Amer, directors of The Great Hack. Photo  José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA.
“The Great Hack” accurately and effectively communicates “new information” regarding privacy, which can contrast or reinforce the viewer’s fresh memories.

The paranoia of having Big Brother watching us began in the 1960s and 1970s when experts studied the subliminal messages in TV ads. Nowadays, people reveal so much information about themselves online that they become predictable enough for companies to influence people’s decisions.

The Great Hack” raises awareness of how we can use social media responsibly and continue working towards a world where technology and ethics coexist harmoniously. It is a challenge we must be ready to take.

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Festival in LA ©2019

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