To all you CADS who have ever liked something on Facebook, or granted access to a little app in return for finding out how clever you are at maths or some other quiz, or what kind of personality you have, read this report by Swiss investigative journalists.
Cambridge Analytica is a big data company which already works for Leave.eu and Donald Trump amongst others, and which has usurped and exploited the work of Cambridge University researcher Michal Kosinski. It enables paid personalised advertising to any voter, and is doing that right now for client candidates in the European elections (fortunately Gert Wilders could not afford them!). They boast of owning 5,000 to 8,000 data points about each of us, based on what we like or dislike, buy or don’t buy, online, including all those ‘innocent’ little personality quizzes! They claim they know us better than our friends, partners, or even ourselves – and they have the statistical proof to back up that claim. One of their directors is Steve Bannon, chief of strategy at the White House and founder of Breitbart News, the ultra right wing ‘alternative’ news channel that publishes racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic and anti-Semitic material.
Their speciality is to persuade you that their candidate completely agrees with your opinions – ever wondered why Trump, or Leave.eu made so many clearly untrue and contradictory remarks? It’s so that there is at least one remark that agrees with and reinforces your own innermost prejudices; and that is the remark that will appear on your FB and Google feeds to reassure you that they will do what you truly want. In short, they can entrain you to vote for their candidate.
In a statement, a Cambridge Analytica spokesperson said, “Cambridge Analytica does not use data from Facebook. It has had no dealings with Dr. Michal Kosinski. It does not subcontract research. It does not use the same methodology. Psychographics was hardly used at all. Cambridge Analytica did not engage in efforts to discourage any Americans from casting their vote in the presidential election. Its efforts were solely directed towards increasing the number of voters in the election.”
Clearly what they meant to say, as this is what they say on their own web page, was:
“Cambridge Analytica uses data from Facebook. It copies Dr. Michal Kosinski’s work. It does subcontract research for which it uses his methodology. Psychographics is heavily used. Cambridge Analytica engages in efforts to discourage some Americans from casting their vote in the presidential election. Its efforts are directed towards increasing the number of votes cast for their client in the election.”
Read the translation of the Swiss investigators’ report. It may shock you how far we have come already with social engineering based on the internet. If you believe in democracy, you may conclude that the time has come to regulate the way in which personal information is collected and used – before it is too late!