World in Review - April 3 2018

By Syeda Sameeha, News Reporter

State department signs off on $1 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia

Despite concerns raised by human rights groups, the US State Department approved of a $1 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia as reported by Al Jazeera.

The New York Times reported that the approved deal includes 6,700 missiles and spare parts for American made tanks and helicopters that are already owned by Saudi Arabia. 

Shortly before his meeting with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, President Trump said, “Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.”

According to The Guardian, the approval was announced on March 22, just two days after the Senate rejected a bipartisan effort to end the US support of the Saudi airstrikes campaign in Yemen.

Human rights groups like Amnesty International have called this three year  military campaign a war crime and of having “serious violations of international law” because of the vast number of civilian casualties, with thousands of civilians dead or displaced in a country driven to famine.

United Nations has said if the situation in Yemen doesn’t change, the country could be the “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster for 50 years”.

Facebook takes user outrage after it is revealed that user data was stolen by analyst firm Cambridge Analytica

Facebook is facing backlash in the wake of its data scandal with analytics firm Cambridge Analytica. 

As first reported by The Observer, Christopher Wylie, former employee of Cambridge Analytica revealed how data scientist Aleksandr Kogan shared Facebook user data through a personality quiz to Cambridge Analytica, a UK based data company that  focuses on voter behavior and is backed by prominent political affiliates in the US such as Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon. 

About 270,000 people were recruited by Kogan to take this survey and were told their data would be used for “academic purposes” according to Quartz. But, a loophole in the app allowed  Cambridge Analytica to access not only the data of the 270,000 people who took the survey, but also the data of everyone in their friends list. Because of this, the total number of user profiles Cambridge Analytica had access to was almost 57 billion according to The Guardian.

As reported by Quartz, these actions violated Facebook’s 2011 agreement with the US Federal Trade Commission that states that Facebook would not share user data without users permission.

In a report by Channel 4 News, Cambridge Analytica was revealed to be behind the “ defeat crooked Hillary”  ad campaign as well as using fake news and shady practices to influence politics not just in the US, but in other countries such as Nigeria.

The report also included secret recordings of the company’s head Alexander Nix who said, “We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape….And so this stuff infiltrates the online community, but with no branding, so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”

In a complaint filed with the the US Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice, the non partisan group Common Cause alleges that Cambridge Analytica broke a US ban that prohibits foreign nationals from being part of the “decision-making processes” of an election or campaign as reported by Politico.

Calls to boycott Facebook with #DeleteFB has been trending on social media especially after founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed in a March 21 statement that the tech giant had first known about the data breach in 2015, but did not inform its users. The company’s stock is also plummeting, with almost $80 billion wiped out from its market value as stated by CNN Money.