Cambridge Analytica

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Joe Shlabotnik
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Cambridge Analytica

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Not only is the story of this compan damning of our political system, it points up the naivete and hubris of the huge tech firms - in this case, Facebook.

In a nutshell, the tech brain behind Steve Bannon's and Robert Mercer's information war has been talking to the Guardian for over a year, He fed them emails, invoices, receipts, and memos. The whole paper trail showing how this fraud and manipulation was carried out.
Wylie oversaw what may have been the first critical breach. Aged 24, while studying for a PhD in fashion trend forecasting, he came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.

“We ‘broke’ Facebook,” he says.

And he did it on behalf of his new boss, Steve Bannon.

“Is it fair to say you ‘hacked’ Facebook?” I ask him one night.

He hesitates. “I’ll point out that I assumed it was entirely legal and above board.”

Last month, Facebook’s UK director of policy, Simon Milner, told British MPs on a select committee inquiry into fake news, chaired by Conservative MP Damian Collins, that Cambridge Analytica did not have Facebook data. The official Hansard extract reads:

Christian Matheson (MP for Chester): “Have you ever passed any user information over to Cambridge Analytica or any of its associated companies?”

Simon Milner: “No.”

Matheson: “But they do hold a large chunk of Facebook’s user data, don’t they?”

Milner: “No. They may have lots of data, but it will not be Facebook user data. It may be data about people who are on Facebook that they have gathered themselves, but it is not data that we have provided.”

And through it all, Wylie and I, plus a handful of editors and a small, international group of academics and researchers, have known that – at least in 2014 – that certainly wasn’t the case, because Wylie has the paper trail. In our first phone call, he told me he had the receipts, invoices, emails, legal letters – records that showed how, between June and August 2014, the profiles of more than 50 million Facebook users had been harvested. Most damning of all, he had a letter from Facebook’s own lawyers admitting that Cambridge Analytica had acquired the data illegitimately.
Going public involves an enormous amount of risk. Wylie is breaking a non-disclosure agreement and risks being sued. He is breaking the confidence of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer.

It’s taken a rollercoaster of a year to help get Wylie to a place where it’s possible for him to finally come forward. A year in which Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of investigations on both sides of the Atlantic – Robert Mueller’s in the US, and separate inquiries by the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK, both triggered in February 2017, after the Observer’s first article in this investigation.

It has been a year, too, in which Wylie has been trying his best to rewind – to undo events that he set in motion. Earlier this month, he submitted a dossier of evidence to the Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Crime Agency’s cybercrime unit. He is now in a position to go on the record: the data nerd who came in from the cold.
Much more in the series of articles at the Guardian. This has been picked up by the major media in America this weekend too.

Interesting. But it probably won't matter.
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Joe Shlabotnik
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Re: Cambridge Analytica

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From here.
Facebook likes to present itself as a tech company,but often appears more like an advertising corporation that happens to use digital technology in order to conduct its core business. The personal information and data trails left by its 2 billion users to construct detailed profiles allows advertisers to send precisely calibrated advertisements to people who are likely to be susceptible to, or persuaded by, them.

Although the original intention was to build an automated machine for delivering commercial messages, it rapidly became clear that the technology could also be used for delivering targeted political messages to voters, and this appears to be what happened in both the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential election. What this meant was that Facebook acquired both political power and serious responsibilities...

The revelations show that a data analytics firm was able to harvest the Facebook profiles of about a third of all US Facebook users, which were then used to construct psychological models of those individuals for campaign purposes.

In a breathtaking piece of corporate casuistry, Facebook claims that this data harvest was not really a data breach at all, because the researcher who opened the floodgates did so “in a legitimate way and through the proper channels”.

The problem, they say, was that the individual in question didn’t abide by the company’s rules because he passed the information on to third parties. A senior Facebook executive told MPs that while the non-breach might have garnered lots of data, “it is not data that we have provided”.

Our revelations also show that by late 2015 Facebook had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale but failed to take firm measures to deal with the consequences or to notify the affected users of what had happened. This seemingly cavalier indolence provides an ironic counterpoint to the company’s latest insistence that “protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do”.

In a way, this kind of casual indifference to the unintended consequences of digital technology is par for the Silicon Valley course – where the mantra of “creative destruction” has the status of religious dogma. And it appears to have been a particular hallmark of Facebook. When suspicions about the exploitation of its systems by political actors (including Russian agencies) first surfaced, the reaction of its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was one of hurt denial that his creation could have such malign effects...

Shortly after Facebook became a public company, its founder famously exhorted his employees to “move fast and break things”. It was, of course, a hacker’s trope and, as such, touchingly innocent. What perhaps never occurred to Zuckerberg is that liberal democracy might be one of the things they break. It’s time for him – and them – to grow up.
Last edited by Joe Shlabotnik on March 18 18, 2:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cambridge Analytica

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From here.
Cambridge Analytica employed non-American citizens to work on US election campaigns in apparent violation of federal law, despite receiving a legal warning about the risks.

The company’s responsibilities under US law were laid out in a lawyer’s memo to the company’s vice-president, Steve Bannon, British CEO Alexander Nix and Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire owner Robert Mercer, in July 2014. It made it clear that most senior and mid-level positions involving strategy, planning, fundraising or campaigning needed to be filled by US citizens.

“Any decision maker must be a US citizen or green card holder,” the memo, seen by the Observer, warned. It also provided a brief legal history of cases involving foreign involvement in election campaigns, drawn up by a lawyer at the firm founded by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
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Re: Cambridge Analytica

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Senior executives from the firm at the heart of Facebook’s data breach boasted of playing a key role in bringing Donald Trump to power and said they used “unattributable and untrackable” advertising to support their clients in elections, according to an undercover expose.

In secretly recorded conversations, Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, claimed he had met Trump “many times”, while another senior member of staff said the firm was behind the “defeat crooked Hillary” advertising campaign.

“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,” said the executive. “And so this stuff infiltrates the online community, but with no branding, so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”

Caught on camera by an undercover team from Channel 4 News, Nix was also dismissive of Democrats on the House intelligence committee, who had questioned him over Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.

Senior managers then appeared to suggest that in their work for US clients, there was planned division of work between official campaigns and unaffiliated “political action groups”.

That could be considered coordination – which is not allowed under US election law. The firm has denied any wrongdoing.
Awesome.
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Re: Cambridge Analytica

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i remember fondly when facebook was for college students only and it never got past fart jokes and college humor links. now its [expletive] destroying the country. people (tech) do not know how to handle this. also another indicator of how unchecked capitalism is awful. the need for money infects people man.
Last edited by Jocephus on March 20 18, 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cambridge Analytica

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It never ceases to amaze how many people are willing to be shady to make a buck.

There really are bad people out there. No conscience. No morals. No sense of responsibility for their community, others, the greater good, etc. Just a [expletive] you all I want is money way of living.
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Re: Cambridge Analytica

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Not to make Facebook Inc out to be a saint or anything, but most of the political organizing happening over the past year is happening over Facebook and in some cases Slack. I'm not sure there's a substitute that comes close to having the same reach. Debated deleting my account for a few minutes the other day and then realized I wouldn't know what the hell is going on locally. I am thinking of defriending most everyone - I hardly use it anymore.

I think it's best to try to keep the good parts and regulate the bad.
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Re: Cambridge Analytica

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ghostrunner wrote:I think it's best to try to keep the good parts and regulate the bad.
I've never had a facebook (started out as punk rock anti-social media defiance and at this point I feel like I'm committed) but I agree. They're tracking us, guys. They don't need facebook to do it. It probably makes it easier, but the internet usage privacy ship has sailed.
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