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The Dangers Of Data Weaponization Is Explored In “The Great Hack”

Do you really know who has your personal data on the internet? When you take a survey or share information on Facebook, where is it going? Many have never paid it a second thought. The new documentary The Great Hack, about to debut on Netflix this Wednesday, makes the case that this is a national failing. The doc propositions that data rights are a form of human rights, one being taken advantage of at every turn. With some visual flourishes, the work attempts to shock audiences into rising up to demand this new right.

The documentary is a look at data exploitation, filtered through the lens of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. That controversy after the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States and the Brexit vote is just part of that dark world. Following David Carroll, as he seeks to find out what the company knows about him and what data of his they actually have, he begins to go down a rabbit hole. As he explores this, becoming more and more disturbed, the actions of Facebook come into play, as well as potential Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Brittany Kaiser. The specter of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump hang over every frame, as there’s clear indications that Cambridge Analytica was utilized by the Trump campaign, while the scandal that broke via the company, its head Alexander Nix, and Brexit work, is given play as well. It all leads to an end that isn’t surprising, but is plenty upsetting. Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim co-direct the doc, while Amer has a writing credit alongside Erin Barnett (who co-edits as well) and Pedro Kos. Gil Talmi contributes the music, while cinematography is by Basil Childers and Ian Moubayed.

Movies like this are meant to engage, to jar you from inaction and slumber. While the documentary largely is successful in that regard, at times it can feel a bit simplistic. That’s what sets this one apart from transcendent works like Citizenfour. Now, don’t mistake that for a lack of a recommendation. This is strong work, just a step below greatness. The team of Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim, plus Erin Barnett and Pedro Kos, don’t have too much in the way of explosive revelations, so they just hammer home how disturbed everyone should be by how companies like Facebook have used your data and allowed the weaponization of said data.

The Great Hack doesn’t quite leave you with an obvious next step, provided you’re determined to fight back against your data being weaponized. At the same time, it does give you knowledge, which is power in and of itself. For some, this can be frustrating. For others, it will be empowering. How you feel about this fact will impact what you get out of this doc. If you pick up where the flick left off, then it is mission accomplished. If you just want more and do nothing, it’s arguably a failure. Mostly, the film is sounding the alarm and hoping you pay heed to its warnings.

Documentary fans should log into Netflix tomorrow to give a shot to The Great Hack, an important and timely work. If it falls just shy of being up there as a potential Oscar nominee, it’s still going to be a must see for many. Regardless of its Academy Award potential (and to be fair, a Best Documentary Feature nomination is not out of the question), this is a doc that could start a conversation. Take a look and begin generating that conversation, as you might just help get your data rights…

Be sure to check out The Great Hack, streaming on Netflix tomorrow!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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