Netflix’s documentaries are a great way to cut yourself off from the world for a few hours with some chips and ice cream without feeling guilty at the end. Because most of the time, you’ll be learning something new. So when the trailer for The Great Hack started playing the second I loaded up Netflix, I knew I had to dedicate an afternoon free from distractions for this. And I have to say, this film really shed some light on the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica fiasco all over the news back in 2018.

The Great Hack is a no-holds-barred take on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and data privacy as a whole. It’s a thought-provoking film that will really make you question your interaction with social media and how it’s being used to influence decisions and trigger emotions.

The documentary begins with a man named David Carroll, an associate professor who figured out that Facebook had been working with Cambridge Analytica to harvest the personal data of almost all of its users, and it documents his quest in recovering his own from the firm. Interjected with interviews and first-hand accounts from the people involved in the scandal, such as Cambridge Analytica’s former VP Steve Bannon, business development director Brittany Kaiser, and investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr. It starts off a little slow, and I wouldn’t want to divulge too much, but there are mentions of the 2016 US Presidential Elections and Brexit peppered into the film that really lend a new perspective and beg further questions to the decision-making and outcomes.

I was taken aback when the harvesting and manipulation of personal data is compared to psyops – for the uninformed, psyops is a branch of the military that does psychological warfare. Communication and propaganda are powerful tools that can help win wars without a single bullet and elect the “right” people into power. This “weaponized” data is unethical, yet Cambridge Analytica is proud of being one of the most successful companies to leverage on this for their clients, which include Trump’s campaign and the Leave.EU campaign. Psyops feeds the proverbial ammunition to the masses and the ensuing chaos and divide among the common people only benefit those in power.

It’s pretty jarring to learn how our personal data is being harvested and used against us, and just how vulnerable we are. While there’s nothing much we can do now because tech companies control almost every aspect of our lives, we can always spread awareness and keep everyone around us well-informed until our lawmakers have a solid plan on how personal data can be better managed and utilised. One thing’s for sure though, after watching this film, I’ll definitely think twice about sharing and reacting to posts online.

Catch The Great Hack on Netflix.