Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:33 am

Kaiser claims the summons came after the Guardian revealed she had visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while still a Cambridge Analytica employee in February 2017, three months after the US election.

‘The Great Hack’ Explains How Cambridge Analytica Made Trump President — Sundance Review

Cambridge Analytica = BCCI 2.0

NEW: Cambridge Analytica employee who worked on Brexit is subpoeaned by Robert Mueller. This is BIG. Brittany Kaiser - who sat next to @arron_banks at LeaveEU launch - becomes subject of Mueller inquiry into Trump-Russia collusion

This now the SECOND Cambridge Analytica employee to have been subpoenaed by Mueller. Sam Patten - whose business partner Mueller identified as linked to Russian intelligence - has already entered into a plea deal. Kaiser is first figure, however, linked directly to Brexit.


.@DamianCollins hitting nail on head. Kaiser was in middle of an extraordinary set of connections. She worked on Brexit. She worked on Trump. She met Assange. And she had *interesting* friends. In 2015, she introduced the firm to Israeli intel operatives...who hacked a president


kaiser claims the summons came after the Guardian revealed she had visited Assange while still a Cambridge Analytica employee in February 2017,
..In film, Kaiser says she has gone from being a cooperating witness to a subject of investigation because of her contact with Assange.

Mueller questions Cambridge Analytica director Brittany Kaiser

Carole Cadwalladr
Sun 17 Feb 2019 04.00 EST
Second former employee of controversial data firm to be questioned by special counsel’s inquiry into Russia collusion

A director of the controversial data company Cambridge Analytica, who appeared with Arron Banks at the launch of the Leave.EU campaign, has been subpoenaed by the US investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

A spokesman for Brittany Kaiser, former business development director for Cambridge Analytica – which collapsed after the Observer revealed details of its misuse of Facebook data – confirmed that she had been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller, and was cooperating fully with his investigation.

He added that she was assisting other US congressional and legal investigations into the company’s activities and had voluntarily turned over documents and data.

Kaiser, who gave evidence to the UK parliament last April in which she claimed Cambridge Analytica had carried out in-depth work for Leave.EU, is the second individual connected to the firm subpoenaed by the special counsel. The Electoral Commission has said its investigation into Leave.EU found no evidence that the campaign “received donations or paid for services from Cambridge Analytica …beyond initial scoping work”.

Damian Collins, chairman of parliament’s inquiry into fake news, said it was “no surprise” that Kaiser was under scrutiny by Mueller because “her work connected her to WikiLeaks, Cambridge Analytica and [its parent company] SCL, the Trump campaign, Leave.EU and Arron Banks”.

He said it was now vital Britain had its own inquiry into foreign interference: “We should not be leaving this to the Americans.”

Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour party, echoed Collins’s statement, saying: “This is the first evidence that a significant player in the Leave.EU campaign is of interested to the global Mueller inquiry. People will be bewildered that the British government has no interest in establishing the facts of what happened.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller.
Special counsel Robert Mueller. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters
In August, Sam Patten, a US political consultant who had worked for Cambridge Analytica on campaigns in the US and abroad, struck a plea deal with Mueller after admitting he had failed to register as a foreign agent for a Ukrainian oligarch.

He became a subject of the special counsel’s inquiry because of work done with Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, in Ukraine. He had also set up a business with Konstantin Kilimnik, a key figure who Mueller has alleged has ties to Russian intelligence and who is facing charges of obstruction of justice. In a 2017 statement to the Washington Post, Kilimnik denied any connection to intelligence services. Kaiser, however, is the first person connected directly to both the Brexit and Trump campaigns known to have been questioned by Mueller.

The news came to light in a new Netflix documentary, The Great Hack, which premiered at the Sundance film festival last month and is expected to be released later this spring. Film-makers followed Kaiser for months after she approached the Guardian, including moments after she received the subpoena. She claims the summons came after the Guardian revealed she had visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while still a Cambridge Analytica employee in February 2017, three months after the US election.

One part of Mueller’s investigation focuses on whether the Trump campaign sought to influence the timing of the release of emails by WikiLeaks before the election. Investigators are looking at communications between them. In the film, Kaiser says that she has gone from being a cooperating witness to a subject of investigation because of her contact with Assange.

In October 2017, it was revealed that Alexander Nix, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, had contacted Assange in August 2016 to try to obtain emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign – which indictments from Mueller’s team say were obtained by Russian military intelligence – to use in Donald Trump’s campaign. When Kaiser gave evidence to parliament last year, she was asked about her relationship with Assange and WikiLeaks but failed to reveal that she had met Assange.

In the documentary, Kaiser is shown after receiving an email from the Guardian last June asking about meeting Assange and alleged donations of cryptocurrency to WikiLeaks. Kaiser did not respond to the email at the time, but on camera says: “She knows I met Assange. And she knows I donated money to WikiLeaks in bitcoin.”

Her legal representatives later wrote to the paper to say that the allegations, including that she had “channelled” donations to WikiLeaks, were false. Kaiser said she had received a small gift of bitcoin in 2011 – long before she worked at Cambridge Analytica – and, not knowing what else to do with it, gave it to WikiLeaks, because she had benefited from material it had released over the years.

Her lawyer told the Observer that the meeting with Assange came about after a chance encounter in London with an acquaintance who knew him. It lasted 20 minutes and consisted mainly of Assange telling her “about how he saw the world”. He said they did not discuss the US election.

Patten and Kaiser were involved in a controversial election campaign in Nigeria in January 2015, which former Cambridge Analytica employees say had “unsettling” parallels to the US presidential election.

The Guardian revealed that the data firm had worked alongside a team of unidentified Israeli intelligence operatives on the campaign. Ex-Cambridge Analytica employees described how the Israelis hacked the now-president of Nigeria’s emails and released damaging information about him to the press weeks before the election. ... are_btn_tw

Netflix documentary The Great Hack turns the Cambridge Analytica scandal into high drama

Adi Robertson
Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special event releases. This review comes from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

“We were so in love with the gift of this technology that nobody bothered to read the terms and conditions.”

“We got high-end connectivity, and we lost our way.”

“It felt like our minds had been hacked.”

Read the lines above in the most portentous and menacing tone imaginable, and you’ll get a good sense of how The Great Hack — a new Netflix documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal — approaches its subject matter. The Great Hack covers one of 2018’s biggest tech controversies: the revelation that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica secretly collected 87 million Facebook users’ data. But the film spends more time dramatizing the scandal’s worst-case scenario than examining the facts — producing compelling personal narratives at the cost of valuable context and perspective.

What’s the genre?

Character-driven current-events documentary. The Great Hack starts with a light recap of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, enhanced with shimmering graphics that represent people’s data leaking from their phones and laptops. Then it jumps back to the start of the controversy, drawing from months’ worth of candid recordings following a few notable players.

Shimmering graphics show data leaking from our phones and laptops
The rest of the film, which is nearly two and a half hours long, plays out like a corporate drama with dual protagonists. (Co-director Jehane Noujaim also directed, another documentary about a dysfunctional tech company.) David Carroll is a Parsons School of Design professor who sued Cambridge Analytica to find the source of its data. And Brittany Kaiser is a senior Cambridge Analytica employee who defected in the scandal’s early days, revealing parts of the company’s internal workings after leaving.

The filmmakers follow Carroll and Kaiser around the globe — sweeping through places like Carroll’s home city of New York, Kaiser’s temporary hideout in Thailand, and the desert landscape of Burning Man. With supporting detail from Guardian reporter Carole Cadwalladr and former company executive Julian Wheatland, among others, The Great Hack pieces together the story of a company undone by its own amoral hubris.

What’s it about?

In 2018, Cambridge Analytica became a potent symbol of social media’s dark side. Funded by conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer and tied to former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, the company claimed to micro-target voters with “military-grade” psychological manipulation tactics. It was (dubiously) credited with helping Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election, as well as helping pass the UK Brexit referendum.

Then, a former employee revealed that Cambridge Analytica had secretly acquired data from millions of Facebook users around 2014, taking advantage of Facebook’s lax privacy rules. Soon after, the UK’s Channel 4 ran a sting operation that captured CEO Alexander Nix discussing underhanded political influence tactics, including offering bribes to a candidate.

The resulting scandal raised broad concerns about data privacy and targeted advertising, triggering numerous government hearings and widespread condemnation of Facebook. Cambridge Analytica denied any wrongdoing, but its reputation was damaged beyond repair, and the company shut down in May of 2018.

What’s it really about?

The meteoric immolation of a would-be power broker. The Great Hack gestures at questions around privacy and cultural polarization. But it’s more interested in the particularities of Cambridge Analytica — like Kaiser’s apparent crisis of conscience, which led her to betray her mentor Nix, or Carroll’s team-up with UK privacy lawyer Ravi Naik, who used the UK’s data protection laws to take on the firm.

The film is more interested in Cambridge Analytica than data policy
Brittany Kaiser’s story is by far the most interesting part of The Great Hack. A former member of Barack Obama’s campaign team, Kaiser comes off as a shrewd anti-hero whose true beliefs are nearly unreadable. She might be an embittered idealist who joined Cambridge Analytica after years of thankless and poorly paid progressive activism, only to recant after realizing she’d lost her way. Or she might be an opportunistic political operator who’s more interested in power than any particular ideology, refashioning herself as a whistleblower to evade the consequences of her actions.

Carroll’s tale is less dramatic, but he still works as a foil to Kaiser — he’s angry at having his data collected by Cambridge Analytica and deeply skeptical of her transformation. And both of them are aligned against Cambridge Analytica executives who protest that they’ve done nothing untoward, despite bragging in private about their supervillain-esque powers of manipulation.

Is it good?

The Great Hack is sometimes fascinating, especially when it’s delving into the shady inner workings of Cambridge Analytica. And it covers timely and important themes. But for a film about resisting propaganda, it’s surprisingly credulous.

Cambridge Analytica clearly breached Facebook users’ trust. There’s far less evidence that its “psychographic” tactics worked any better than traditional canvassing and broadly targeted ads. Some reports paint the company as a bumbling snake-oil hawker, suggesting that Mercer forced candidates to hire it as a condition of his donations. But while The Great Hack’s subjects hammer Cambridge Analytica for all sorts of deceptions, they appear to accept its sales pitch at face value — and so do the filmmakers, who present company marketing material and promotional speeches as unchallenged fact.

It’s taken for granted that Cambridge Analytica’s mind-control system worked
As a character-focused work, The Great Hack doesn’t build a serious case for Cambridge Analytica actually hacking people’s brains or getting Trump elected. It simply takes for granted that the firm posed a unique and existential threat to democracy, and that figures like Carroll and Kaiser are changing the course of history.

Consequently, the film can be downright hagiographic, with subjects endlessly congratulating each other on their bravery and importance. One of Kaiser’s friends compares her to the Biblical Apostle Paul. Tweets from Carroll — featuring commentary like “BOOM” and “Tick tock...” — pop up complete with adoring replies, which ends up seeming more inadvertently smug than righteously triumphant.

Similar to Noujaim and co-director Karim Amer’s previous documentary The Square, the The Great Hack’s narrative essentially wrapped up when the filmmakers ran out of time. The film peters out after wandering around with its characters for much too long, throwing in some minor digressions about the semi-related Russian “troll farm” scandal and Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.

The Great Hack suggests that Silicon Valley’s larger privacy problems made a psychological warfare campaign inevitable. “There was always going to be a Cambridge Analytica. It just sucks for me that it was Cambridge Analytica,” laments Wheatland. But for social media addicts, there’s a potentially more painful possibility: that there’s no good reason for politicians to lavish attention on our every like and share, but companies like Cambridge Analytica will do it anyway.

What should it be rated?

The film’s most disturbing element is its reminder that you’re being constantly surveilled by would-be supervillains, and that’s not on the MPAA ratings rubric. So maybe a PG-13 for overall adult themes.

How can I actually watch it?

The Great Hack is being distributed by Netflix, which should release it sometime later this year. ... dance-2019

They were planning on stealing the election’: Explosive new tapes reveal Cambridge Analytica CEO’s boasts of voter suppression, manipulation and bribery

Previously unknown recording reveals extraordinary ‘black ops’ on three continents – exploiting weaknesses in democracies left wide open by governments and Silicon Valley.

Alexander Nix, weeks before Channel 4 News screened its fatal investigation. Image: Christian Charisius/DPA.

“I worked at Cambridge Analytica while they had Facebook datasets. I went to Russia one time while I worked for Cambridge. I visited Julian Assange while I worked for Cambridge. I once donated to WikiLeaks. I pitched the Trump campaign and wrote the first contract. All of these things make it look like I am at the centre of some big, crazy thing. I see that, and I can’t argue with that. The only thing that I’ve got going for me is that I didn’t do anything wrong. So they can search everything that they want!”

It was May 2018. Brittany Kaiser, the second Cambridge Analytica whistleblower to go public, had just heard she was being subpoenaed by the Mueller investigation, in a moment captured in ‘The Great Hack’ (a documentary which premiered at the Sundance film festival this week). The media were reporting her February 2017 visit to Assange, another piece of circumstantial evidence supposedly connecting her to the controversies around the successes of Donald Trump and Brexit. Kaiser continued to protest her innocence, and to cooperate fully with investigations. And today we can reveal more about what she knew.

In explosive recordings that Kaiser made in the summer of 2016, excerpts from which are published exclusively by openDemocracy today, her former boss, Alexander Nix, makes a series of extraordinary claims. The onetime Cambridge Analytica CEO talks of bribing opposition leaders, facilitating election-stealing and suppressing voter turnout.

When we asked Nix to comment on this new material, he told us that many of our claims had been proven to be false, and others were completely speculative and not grounded in reality. But what we are publishing for the first time are his own words.

Nix boasts of orchestrating election black ops around the world. He reveals how in Trinidad and Tobago, Strategic Communications Laboratories (the British company behind Cambridge Analytica) engineered a highly successful grassroots campaign to "increase apathy" so that young Afro-Caribbeans would not vote. In Nigeria, evidence was found that SCL used rallies by religious leaders to discourage voting in key districts. Nix also makes a knowing reference to Brexit, although Cambridge Analytica has repeatedly denied involvement in that campaign.

In the recordings, Nix describes one of his major clients, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, as a "fascist". And he sheds more light on the nexus of data, money and power that Cambridge Analytica deployed as it backed Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency.

A number of these shocking allegations are also revealed in ‘The Great Hack’. Yet this is far more than a story of one rogue company, now brought low after its name became a byword for electoral controversy. It exposes the back doors through which democracies across the world have been left vulnerable to manipulation. And it is the tip of the iceberg.

What the whistleblower told Parliament

It was almost six years ago, in a London sushi bar, that Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive Alexander Nix first sought to enlist Brittany Kaiser, saying: “Let me get you drunk and steal your secrets.” Back when she was an idealistic nineteen-year-old Democrat from Chicago, she had dropped everything to work on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. Later, after studying human rights and international law, she had moved into the unruly world of trade deals with states like Libya and Iran.

Kaiser resisted Nix at first, volunteering for the Ready for Hillary campaign instead. But her experience of the Clinton machine left her disillusioned and frustrated. What’s more, her parents were caught on a financial razor’s edge; she needed to pay the bills. In 2014, she finally struck her perilous bargain with Nix. He became her mentor, she his apprentice.

Brittany Kaiser in front of Parliament’s fake news inquiry, April 2018 Image: PA Images

Nix had teamed up in 2013 with the alt-right entrepreneur Steve Bannon and the family of hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer to launch Cambridge Analytica. Their mission was to arm a rising populist right to defeat the big data machine built by Obama.

Kaiser’s decision to work for Nix and Bannon was hard for her former Obama colleagues to understand. Looking back, she told me with a measure of irony that she had been guided by the first African-American president’s creed: “It is important to sit down with rogue actors, without preconditions.” Like others of her millennial generation, she also felt dispossessed, impatient with the status quo and hungry for adventure.

I first met Brittany Kaiser in February 2017. She was shockingly frank about her company’s role in the right-wing political revolutions of 2016, but it was clear that she knew even more. We spoke on several occasions over more than a year, before I suggested that she blow the whistle publicly to myself and Paul Lewis of The Guardian. She readily agreed.

She testified against her former colleagues, providing arresting new evidence about their unpaid data work on Brexit for the controversial businessman Arron Banks (now under investigation by the National Crime Agency) and his Leave.EU campaign, as well as possible abuses of Facebook and insurance data. She provided the first real proof of Steve Bannon’s role in setting up these deals for Nix, and of Cambridge Analytica’s exclusive data relationship with Bannon’s alt-right propaganda platform, Breitbart News.

In April 2018 Kaiser testified before the British parliament’s ‘fake news’ inquiry. She covered a dizzying array of topics alongside Cambridge Analytica, including her friends’ cryptocurrency-powered telecommunications schemes in Mexico, and her time working with WikiLeaks’ British lawyers at Doughty Street Chambers on “prisoner of conscience” cases.

The parliamentarians wanted to know more about a group of hackers – alumni of Israeli intelligence – who she had introduced to oil-billionaire clients, and who had infiltrated the Nigerian political opposition as part of a 2015 campaign by Nix’s firm. But when it came to the inflammatory content of that campaign, Kaiser pointed the finger firmly at Sam Patten, a long-standing fixture on Cambridge Analytica’s roster of globe-trotting political strategists.

According to whistleblower Chris Wylie, Cambridge Analytica/SCL used the campaign video in this report from The Guardian to influence the Nigerian presidential election of 2015.

Immediately after running the controversial Nigeria campaign for Nix, Patten went into business with the Russian operative Konstanin Kilimnik. His new partner was not only the right hand of indicted Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in Ukraine, but also a suspected Russian military intelligence asset. Patten has recently pleaded guilty to channelling donations from a Ukranian oligarch into Donald Trump’s inauguration fund. Kilimnick himself is wanted for questioning by special counsel Robert Mueller, and has recently fled to Moscow.

One of the British parliamentarians asked Kaiser the obvious question: “Have you ever worked for, paid or unpaid, or provided information to, any country’s intelligence agency, their representatives or associated organisations?” Her answer was “No;” but pressed, she acknowledged having been “approached” in the past, before her time at Cambridge Analytica, “although they wouldn’t properly identify themselves... I’ve been taught what to look out for: my grandfather was a military intelligence officer for 27 years, and knew when I was young that would be a possibility, and told me what to look out for… and to say no.”

Damian Collins MP, the chair of the fake news inquiry, had one final question for Brittany Kaiser. “If Alexander Nix wanted to reach out to Julian Assange, couldn’t he do it through you?” Without losing her self-possession, she laughed for a split second and responded: “That’s what I was wondering…”

Collins then announced that Nix was pulling out of his own scheduled interrogation the following day. Within weeks, Cambridge Analytica and Nix’s wider network of data, political and security consulting operations had filed for bankruptcy. It took another month before the silver-tongued, polo-playing Etonian consultant accepted his third summons from Parliament. Wriggling under the spotlight, he claimed to be the real victim of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. According to his telling, a liberal media witch-hunt had found him guilty of the victories of Trump (who Nix had proudly helped to elect) and Brexit – which he still claimed to have had nothing to do with.

Nix threw particular doubt on the credibility of Chris Wylie, the pink-haired Canadian whistleblower who first set off the firestorm by revealing to Carole Cadwalladr in The Observer his own role in procuring and weaponising the hijacked data of tens of millions of Facebook users for Cambridge Analytica. Nix claimed that Wylie had left in 2014 to set up his own competing firm, which then itself pitched work for both Trump and Brexit. According to Nix’s telling, Wylie had even spoken of being excited to engage with “crazy evil Russians”.

I was part of the small audience for Nix’s parliamentary grilling. Next to me sat David Carroll, the principled campaigner for data rights who sued Cambridge Analytica to expose the thousands of pieces of political, consumer and psychographic information they held on him and 240 million other Americans. (Carroll’s dogged campaign recently secured the first guilty plea from Nix’s UK firm.) Suddenly I received a flurry of urgent messages from Kaiser, then in the US.

The Guardian had just broken the story of her meeting with Julian Assange in February 2017. Based on private material submitted to Parliament, the article suggested that not only had she discussed the US elections with the WikiLeaks founder, she had even funnelled cryptocurrency payments to the organisation. On the same day, Kaiser contradicted the allegations in an interview with the Financial Times. “I didn’t conspire to leak Hillary’s emails and I have nothing to do with Russia,” she told me despairingly.

I wondered: could this young woman really be the elusive link connecting the Trump campaign to Assange and ‘Guccifer’, the hacker subsequently unmasked as Russian military intelligence? Or was someone framing her to throw us all off the scent?

Brittany Kaiser had already allowed me to review emails and documents in the course of my reporting, and to help analyse her materials for testimony and publication by Parliament. Now she allowed me to privately review a further motherlode of files so I could find out the truth for myself; she also agreed to be followed by ‘The Great Hack’ filmmakers. I understand that Mueller’s team issued a subpoena but it was never served on her, and that she has cooperated very closely with official investigations in the US. I found no indication whatsoever that she might have been involved in the Democratic National Committee hack.

Kaiser had originally acknowledged in Parliament that she introduced Nix to her friends in Julian Assange’s London legal team in 2015, but said she knew nothing of her boss’s own contacts with him. Her cryptocurrency donation to WikiLeaks (made with gifted Bitcoin she had no other use for) had taken place several years earlier, while she was working on human rights issues in countries like Iraq.

If we blame a young woman like Brittany Kaiser for all the failings of Western democracy, or harp endlessly on the significant roles played by Julian Assange or Russia, we risk obscuring where the greatest responsibility lies. As we unearthed more pieces of the puzzle, learning ever more about the back doors through which our democracies have been hacked, I realised the real scandal was closer to home.

Anyone seeking a single master key to the conspiracy of 2016 risks missing the forest for the trees. As Assange himself wrote in 2006, “Not every conspirator trusts or knows every other conspirator, even though they are all connected… When we look at an authoritarian conspiracy as a whole, we see a system of interacting organs, a beast with arteries and veins whose blood may be thickened and slowed until it falls, stupefied; unable to sufficiently command and control the forces in its environment.”

Investigations into Trump and Brexit are spotlighting a whole system of conspiracies against democracy, which together do more than any individual plotter to undermine the public good. Leading Western oligarchs, from the Mercers and Steve Bannon to Mark Zuckerberg, did far more than the Russians to elect Donald Trump. The full story has yet to be told. Justice demands that we ask the bigger questions.

openDemocracy has worked for two years exposing the murky finances and law-breaking of secretive groups targeting us online.

Black ops, lies and leaks

Throughout 2016, as a practitioner of politics and technology, I tracked the movements that carried Brexit and Trump to victory. They broke the mould of establishment right-wing campaigns, challenging the broken status quo and tapping bottom-up energies like never before.

But they were also full of black operations, lies, hacks and leaks, with playbooks eerily reminiscent of the Russian political technologists sometimes nicknamed “The Wizards of Oz”. Most strangely, this strange company called Cambridge Analytica, with access to masses of illicit Facebook data and a track record in psychological warfare, seemed to have played a significant part on both sides of the Atlantic.

I personally campaigned against Brexit, I followed the Bernie Sanders campaign on the ground in 2016, and my friends and I lost those fights. We watched the technologies we had been trying to harness for democratic ends being turned against us; we saw hard-right populists hijack our banner of change.

I felt a crack in history opening up during 2016. I was spending most of my time starting up Crowdpac (our political crowdfunding and democratic big-data platform) in Europe. We never sold data, but almost a million people used our questionnaires to inform their Brexit vote; so I understood what Cambridge Analytica was doing from the other end of the telescope. After Trump’s election, I started trying to find out what had really gone wrong and how we could fix it.

Private conversations with contacts on the other side, notably Brittany Kaiser, gave me a glimpse of their murky network of international connections. My wife is a creative and product visionary who had worked at Deepmind, the leading British artificial intelligence company taken over by Google. I told her what I was discovering, and she agreed I needed to pursue it. Over the following two years, this journey took me to dark places I would never otherwise have entered. At times I feared for my own life, or for others’.

In a former life, Kaiser had participated in some of the progressive movements and platforms I had helped to build. Now we shared support for Sanders, experience in private diplomacy and a conviction that data could be used for good. Yet she told indiscreet stories of her own proximity to leading right-wing players, and the moral conflict between some of her work and her underlying values seemed intense.

I decided to find out if Kaiser’s company had truly hacked our elections, whether they had covert links to Russia, and how culpable Silicon Valley and the West’s own oligarchs were behind the scenes. It was not easy.

One former employee of Cambridge Analytica compared others’ reticence to “the omertà of the Mafia”, not least because people were afraid of the company’s powerful principals. The family of Robert Mercer, not only a billionaire but also a data scientist accused of white supremacist views, were its controlling investors. The Mercers’ consigliere Steve Bannon sat on Nix’s board with Robert Mercer’s daughter Rebekah, who Nix sometimes referred to as his “work wife”.

Steve Bannon in his White House days, 2017. Image: Douliery Olivier/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images

Materials revealed to me and testimony provided by Brittany Kaiser and other sources, some of which have subsequently been published, confirm that Bannon was actively involved in brokering Cambridge Analytica’s relationships with Trump, Brexit campaigners and a flotilla of Mercer-linked organisations. (Whistleblowers have also provided extensive evidence to openDemocracy of the relationships between the Brexit campaign, Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon). Bannon admitted last spring that he “put the company together”, but continues to claim he knew nothing of Cambridge Analytica’s misdeeds during his time on its board. Earlier this month he launched The Movement, his latest attempt to lay waste to the politics of the European Union and empower the populist far right with data and strategic advice.

Brittany Kaiser and Chris Wylie remain almost unique among former Cambridge Analytica staffers in their willingness to talk publicly. This is particularly striking given that Alexander Nix reportedly failed to pay most of his employees severance they were owed, but himself walked away with a payoff of at least $8.7 million. Nix has denied these allegations, although they were confirmed by multiple sources.

In the course of my investigation, I nonetheless managed to speak with almost a dozen sources with close knowledge of the company’s operations, and gathered previously unpublished materials and insights from a number of them. One senior source who originally wanted to save the company swiftly realised that they had to “kill the dragon”.

Why? For most of its employees, Cambridge Analytica was just another startup, battling for clients in the Wild West world of personal data and advertising technology (“ad-tech”). It overhyped its value proposition, its data architecture and processes were chaotic, not all projects went well; but many felt proud of their work. They compartmentalised the most controversial contracts, blamed Nix and his lieutenants for any sketchiness, and believed that Cambridge Analytica had become a scapegoat for the systemic abuses of the data brokerage industry. “Everyone is doing it,” I heard again and again.

The smoking gun

Brittany Kaiser spoke often about “the crazy things Alexander would say”. But it was hard to find the smoking gun. Then Kaiser and I found an old recording buried deep in her laptop files. It was Alexander Nix’s extraordinary pitch, recorded on her iPhone in the heat of that fateful summer of 2016.

Last March The Guardian, The New York Times and Britain’s Channel 4 News broke the story of Chris Wylie’s whistleblowing for the first time. Seventy-two hours later, Channel 4 News released undercover recordings of Nix and his fellow executives. They talked about ‘honey traps’ that used Ukrainian prostitutes and boasted of secret teams who “ghosted in, did the work, ghosted out” of countries, and “put information into the bloodstream of the internet… with no branding, so it’s unattributable, untrackable”. But even in the Channel 4 sting, Nix was careful to caveat his most inflammatory claims. Not so in Kaiser’s iPhone recording: the mask is truly off.

“What we sought to do here is… to build a workable model of persuasion that could be rolled out across the United States initially. To help us to target people at an individual level in a way that would increase compliance through communications.

“Our inventory has questions like, are you frequently lonely, do you enjoy taking part in new initiatives? It's not an opinion survey. Because we're not interested in what you think about the president. We're interested in you, and trying to work out...” Nix searches for the right phrase: “what are your buttons?

“A few years later we were in Nigeria again, and this was a campaign for [presidential candidate Umaru] Yar’Adua, who was the puppet for [incumbent president Olusegun] Obasanjo,” Nix continues. He appears to be talking about the 2007 elections, not the 2015 race in which Brittany Kaiser and Sam Patten were involved. “So we persuaded our client to do something quite unusual. We persuaded him to allow us to tell everyone in Nigeria that they were planning on stealing the election.

“And the reason we did this was to inoculate them. We ran this campaign for about 12 months saying, oh, the government's going to steal the election. And then, when the Jimmy Carter Center – who was monitoring the election – announced that the election was not ‘free and fair’, everyone was like… ‘Yeah, we know that.’ As opposed to going ‘WHAT?!!’ and getting really angry!” Yar’Adua won the election by a landslide, but the outcome was controversial and widely thought to have been rigged.

Nix’s UK company Strategic Communications Laboratories and its US wing Cambridge Analytica were usually careful to mask their most controversial activities in case studies. But I found one brochure in which further telling details of this Nigeria campaign slipped through: “SCL advised that rather than focusing on swing voters, the party should instead aim to dissuade opposition supporters from voting – an action that could be easily monitored. This was achieved by organising anti-election rallies on the day of polling in opposition strongholds, many conducted by local religious figures to maximise their appeal to rural communities.”

Kaiser heard Alexander Nix give this pitch many times. This previously unknown recording provides irrefutable evidence of him boasting to prospective clients about his experience in voter suppression, his comfort with sowing apathy and fatalism about corruption, and his readiness to facilitate election-stealing. Asked for comment about his own statements, Nix today denied that SCL had worked in Nigeria in 2007.

Crucially, this recording sets in context the claim by a senior Trump campaign source that “we have three major voter suppression operations under way”, made to Bloomberg in October 2016. By then Cambridge Analytica was working simultaneously with the Trump campaign; the Defeat Crooked Hillary Super PAC, overseen personally by Rebekah Mercer; an underground platform doing psychographic microtargeting of congregations and religious communities; the far-right Media Research Center; the National Rifle Association; and a massive, secretively funded campaign by the National Sports Shooting Federation of gun companies.

How to make black youth not vote

Nix moved on to pitch his next case study – a youth mobilisation campaign. Again, all is not as it seems. “Trinidad is a very interesting case history of how we look at problems,” Nix said. “Trinidad's tiny – it's 1.3 million people – but almost exactly half the country are Indian and half the country are Black, Afro-Caribbean. And there are two main political parties, one for the Blacks and one for the Indians… when the Indians are in power the Blacks don't get anything, and vice-versa, you know – they screw each other. So we were working, I think for the third time in Trinidad, and we were working for the Indians, and we did a huge amount for research, and two really important things came out.

“One was that all the youth, Indian and Afro-Caribbean, felt disenfranchised … And secondly, amongst the Indians the familial hierarchies were really strong. There was huge respect for their elders and their parents and their families, but not so for the Afro-Caribbeans. And that was enough information to inform the entire campaign.

“We went to the client and said, we only want to do one thing, we want to run a campaign where we target the youth – all youth, all the Blacks and all the Indians – and we try and increase apathy. And they didn't really understand why… but they allowed us to do this campaign, and the campaign had to be non-political, because no one, the kids don’t care about politics. It had to be reactive, because they’re lazy; inclusive of all ethnicities; bottom-up. It had to be exciting, because kids want to do something fun.

“We came up with this campaign which was all about ‘Be part of the gang, do something cool, be part of a movement.’ And it was called the ‘Do So’ campaign… A3 posters. And graffiti, yellow paint, you know, we cut stencils with the jigsaw… And we'd give these to kids, and they'd get in their cars at night, you know, just make a drawing, get in the car, and race around the country putting up these posters and getting chased by the police and all their friends were doing it, and it was fucking brilliant fun…

A poster from the 'Do So' campaign. Image: courtesy of Kierron Yip Ngow/Facebook.

“Do So. Don't vote. Don't be involved in politics. It's like a sign of resistance against – not government, against politics. And voting. And very soon they're making their own YouTube videos. This is the prime minister’s house that's being graffitied! … It was carnage.

“And the reason why this was such a good strategy is because we knew, and we really really knew, that when it came to voting, all the Afro-Caribbean kids wouldn't vote, because they ‘Do So’. But all the Indian kids would do what their parents told them to do, which is go out and vote. And so all the Indians went out and voted, and the difference on the 18-35-year-old turnout is like 40%, and that swung the election by about 6% – which is all we needed!”

Again, Nix was selling his company’s expertise in promoting cynicism and apathy to suppress turnout among the opposition. But this campaign was even more manipulative: enlisting young Afro-Caribbeans in what pretended to be an authentic youth movement, secretly designed to manipulate them into surrendering their votes. This is what ‘compliance’ means in psychological warfare: achieving the desired behavioural effect from a ‘hostile audience’.

Asked for comment on the Do-So campaign, Nix responded in an email earlier today, writing, “The objective of this campaign was to highlight and protest against political corruption. There is nothing unlawful or illegal about assisting with this activity. SCL / CA has never undertaken voter suppression and there is no evidence to the contrary.”

Nix’s closing comments in his summer 2016 pitch were tantalising: “We’ve got an in-house intelligence team, so we can do full intelligence protection… Opposition don’t hack your emails and everything else. And we're pretty good at getting intelligence too… You know what? We do a lot of counter operations. You can spend $10 million on an election. Or we can send one of our guys in to go offer the leader of the opposition a bribe, you know, three weeks before polling. It's a very good way to win an election.”

Beneath the veneer, this seems to have been some of the work Alexander Nix was most proud of. This is how he pitched his company around the world, just as he was finally starting to work for Trump. This is the man who the Mercers and Steve Bannon enlisted to help them reshape the American political mind.

On the US stage

In Kaiser’s recording Nix talks cynically about his work in the Republican primaries: with Ted Cruz, with Ben Carson, and then with the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. He claims to have turned Cruz from “the most hated man in US politics” into the front runner before Trump’s wildcard surge. It was not out of love: “We hated this guy. He's far right wing, he's like, you know, fascist,” Nix says of his own candidate. The success factor was big data, which “allows you to literally go in and target every single individual”. What about Brexit? “We don’t talk about that,” he says knowingly, after including it in a list of campaigns they were involved in. Kaiser adds ironically, “Oops – we won!”

Nix compares his strategies to a marketing campaign selling Coca-Cola in a movie theatre. Instead of working on branding and adverts, turn up the temperature. Get the viewers hot and bothered: they’ll buy more Coke for sure. This cynical perspective can be traced back to the founder of the modern public relations industry, Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, who wrote: “In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons... who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

In the early days of the Cold War, Bernays worked to topple the government of Guatemala through a domestic and foreign propaganda campaign on behalf of the United Fruit Company, the forerunner of Chiquita. Decades later, Nix claimed to be at the forefront of an evolution from “Mad Men” to “Math Men”, replacing the lightbulb moments of unreliable Don Draper creatives on Madison Avenue with mass data and predictive microtargeting. He wanted to precisely hit the Pavlovian reflexes of you, me, everyone. Through this lens, voters become rats in the oligarchs’ maze.

As Nix gleefully claims of another campaign in which the son of a billionaire African liberation leader covertly funded the youth movement which then drafted him as their candidate for president, “We created everything. We created a need that didn’t exist.”

Exit Nix

A year after this recording, Nix was negotiating an abortive acquisition deal with Martin Sorrell’s world-leading WPP conglomerate of advertising and marketing firms. In January 2018, he finally raised almost $20m for a new company called Emerdata.

Papers obtained by my investigation indicate the Mercers were joined by Chinese and Gulf investors in this effort, although the ultimate sources of their funds remain unclear. Johnson Ko, the Chinese state-linked business partner of American mercenary Erik Prince, briefly joined Emerdata’s board alongside one of his associates. (Cambridge Analytica China was also incubated at Ko’s firm Reorient Capital during 2017.)

The majority of the new funds injected into Emerdata seem to have been extracted personally by Nix through various different pretexts, according to conversations I had with well-placed sources and review of bankruptcy documents. The biggest withdrawal of $8.7 million took place after Kaiser’s whistleblowing, and before Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections went into administration. Many employees were never paid their outstanding salaries and severance: the general sacrificed his footsoldiers, most of whom just wanted to get out and move on.

I first discovered Brittany Kaiser’s support for Bernie Sanders via a YouTube video of a company party at the dog races, arrestingly subtitled “We ‘Rigg’ Elections”. It shows a comedy routine performed by one of Cambridge Analytica’s data scientists, who notes Kaiser’s past involvement with the Obama campaign, suggests she may still be working for the Democrats, and includes this memorable line about Alexander Nix: “He could sell an anchor to a drowning man.”

Listening again to the pitch recording, I felt that Nix, who continues to protest his innocence and attempt to reboot his career, is now the one sinking under the weight of accumulating evidence. What about those who enabled him?

Beyond Facebookistan, New Deal 2.0?

There is no question that Cambridge Analytica’s tactics were somewhat effective in pulling “the wires which control the public mind”, although I have found little evidence that their much-vaunted psychographics actually worked. What seems to have had the most impact was the dubious data hoard they assembled to target dark ads on Facebook, combined with the brutal efficacy of their messages and tactics.

Yet this was just one of the tangled web of conspiracies now being exposed. It is increasingly clear that a global underworld of manipulators and power brokers treated 2016 as a playground of opportunities. The democracies of the US and the UK were left wide open; we turned out to be almost defenceless against their designs. Central players in the subversion of our open societies regularly attend conferences of the global elite, such as last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Most still seem to operate with impunity.

During our debrief in Thailand, Kaiser soon started connecting the dots between her fury at the powerful men who had been pulling her strings, her conviction that the greatest abuses of power were taking place in Silicon Valley, and the way her own company had been used to “manipulate millions of voters across America”. Her curiosity started to sharpen: how had she and countless others been so misled?

“Brittany spent a long time in the underworld,” I say toward the end of 'The Great Hack'. Karim Amer, the film’s co-director, asked me whether I was ever concerned she would let me down. It took me a while to answer. I believed that she had made mistakes, that sometimes things break and cannot be put back together, and that ultimately only she was responsible for her own actions. But more importantly, I believe in the possibility of redemption: both for individuals, and for us collectively as a society. Those who have not gone beyond the pale can always learn and grow. Few of us have made no mistakes.

Nix memorably describes in his pitch how much more effective it is to protect a private beach from trespassers by putting up a sign that says “Sharks! Keep Out”. The brutal reality is that we live in a world that is under constant siege by sharks of many different kinds, from the financial markets to Silicon Valley and the White House. The ultimate goal of Russian interference and billionaire voter suppression campaigns alike is to get us to ‘Keep Out’ of politics: to accept the dominance of transnational oligarchs, and to lose hope that things can change.

This is reason enough to reject apathy and disengagement. The outrageous scale of the challenge calls us to embrace our democratic role as citizens, to join our forces and fight for real change. For all their ruthless cynicism and common methods, the pseudo-movements manufactured by Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon, the Russians and the architects of Brexit can only thrive in a vacuum. They dissolve when confronted with genuine people power.

Bannon, Nix, the Mercers and Facebook will soon have many more questions to answer. Yet Cambridge Analytica cannot be allowed to be the scapegoat for our broken system. Its successes came from its extraordinary access to data, money and power; but it was simply exploiting the back doors in our democracies which irresponsible elites and Silicon Valley had left wide open.

In an early 2016 email thread, Cambridge Analytica scientists talk matter-of-factly about using illicit Facebook likes to build ‘lookalike’ models, months after they were supposed to have deleted all their Facebook data; but one writes that their approach “is not competitive with relatively simple processes that Google and Facebook provide using the wealth of their data”.

Nix modelled his data barony deliberately on the worst excesses of Silicon Valley, while exploiting the loopholes in their platforms to the full. It is long past time for us to learn the larger lesson. The internet giants must do all they can to fix their failings and better serve their users; but they cannot really flourish until their inevitable excesses are reined in by democracy.

Kaiser has given detailed testimony to Parliament about Cambridge Analytica’s retention of tainted Facebook data. We have no visibility into what she told US authorities. The Federal Trade Commission is reported to be considering imposing an “unprecedented” fine on Mark Zuckerberg’s empire, which has also been indicted by Washington DC’s attorney general for facilitating the breach of users’ data without our consent.

Every expert I know believes that the Cambridge Analytica breach was just the tip of the iceberg: my investigation found evidence that other huge ‘friend databases’ were similarly extracted from Facebook and weaponised for political use. Last year I co-founded the Freedom From Facebook campaign calling for Zuckerberg’s near-monopoly control of social messaging data to be broken up; we were immediately targeted with disinformation by Facebook’s own negative PR firm, Definers Public Affairs. Definers is run by notorious Republican ‘opposition researchers’ from the political action committee America Rising, which even hosted a joint Christmas party with Cambridge Analytica in 2015.

Brittany Kaiser initially hoped Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg would turn out to be benevolent oligarchs. Last year she launched a petition calling for them to allow Facebook’s users to own their own data, asking them to learn and change. They have shown no signs of doing either. As a result, ‘Facebookistan’ now has its own leakers and whistleblowers. In recent months, new revelations have shone savage new light on Facebook’s bartering and exposure of user data.

I spoke on the phone with Kaiser shortly before Christmas. “I was being too nice,” she said. “It gets worse every day. You can’t fix it now, it’s not fixable, not in its current form. Break it up with anti-trust laws. Pull away WhatsApp and Instagram… reorganise their business model. It’s completely out of control, and they never thought anything would happen. They’re not really keeping any of it secret; it’s all in the open, but they thought nobody would notice or care.”

Instead of the scapegoat, Cambridge Analytica should be the canary in the coalmine. The urgency is clear: we must secure and renew our democracies. That means closing every loophole that enables the laundering of money and data; encouraging mass participation; and establishing strict safeguards against political meddling by billionaires and underworld operatives (both foreign and domestic). We also have to start building a social contract around data that properly respects the digital human rights of citizens, giving us ownership individually and collectively.

If data is the new oil – a social resource of extraordinary value and danger – then we ought to put it in the hands of the many, not the few, with appropriate safeguards against abuse. If we can build a new wave of technologies that are more deserving of the public’s trust, we will be laying the foundations of a 21st-century commonwealth: a future in which this cornucopia of technology can finally start to be harnessed for the good of all. We need a New Deal for the internet age.

Update, 29 January 2019: This article has been amended to reflect the fact Channel 4 News also broke the story about Christopher Wylie's whistleblowing. ... l-cambridg
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Feb 17, 2019 11:37 pm

David Carroll

Here’s the @CommonsCMS report. #CambridgeAnalytica ... 1/1791.pdf

On 18 March this issue and many others will be settled in the High Court


Facebook gets dragged by Brits who usually much prefer understatement


I told you the ruling on inferred data was significant. Cambridge Analytica was the awakening.


This is really important.


Doesn’t mince words here.


ok got to the part where i am mentioned


(Note: they don’t send me embargoed copies i’m seeing this for the first time myself.)

Wait what did Zuck tell Congress again?


Damn. No wonder Zuck is afraid of answering questions from this committee.




i got to the “sketchy apps” part deep into the #six4three stuff with the all-important Joseph Chancellor cameo


Kogan theory on facebook privacy fallacy


UK Parliament to the USA: Cheerio, you might want to investigate Facebook for RICO. Jolly good shown then. Carry on.


This report packs a whallop folks


brexit is tainted by data protection law breaking that’s a big problem for britain


The Canadian link, AggregateIQ, between Brexit, Trump;
and so much more. The Trinidad stuff is really bad. It’s in #TheGreatHack on Netflix soon.


Here is @VickerySec’s diagram


Just a normal parliamentary report revealing explosive details about the US political machine


Bannon Brietbart forensics as Brittany Kaiser foretold


US: why was our voter data processed in the UK?
UK: was our voter data processed in Canada and/or USA?



Amen. This. Right here. Close the loop.


So the Cambridge Analytica story is not resolved at all. Got it. Thanks.


The technical details in this @CommonsCMS report — this what good governance might look like in the 21st century


Regulating digital elections is all about radical transparency. It should be effortless to follow the money and follow the data. Democracy depends on it.


(More analysis later. There’s a lot to chew on here. Wow. Bravo @CommonsCMS.)

Um Yeah....


The hacked RNC emails were found?

random facts girl.

About 250 of them.
The innocuous ones.

Along with the servers hosting the GOP DataTrust / VoterVault database, they were breached by Russian agents in late 2015...

Image ... 7463223296
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:00 pm

Carole Cadwalladr

This is curious. Interview with ex-Cambridge Analytica director Brittany Kaiser's lawyer about @ObserverUK story on Mueller subpoena. Kaiser claimed it was because Mueller wanted to know about Assange. Lawyer claims Mueller's interest = "data data data" ... 7840323724

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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Mar 02, 2019 7:20 pm

Lewandowski Reportedly Tried Using Front Company As Link Between Trump Campaign And Cambridge Analytica

Another dirty chapter in President Trump’s 2016 Presidential Campaign came to light regarding a former Cambridge Analytica employee and former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski. We already know that Cambridge Analytica and Lewandowski had been in talks before the launch of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, but a lawyer for a former Cambridge employee provided new information on what his client knew and why Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller wanted to speak with her.

Jim Walden, the attorney for Cambridge Analytica’s Britanny Kaiser, told MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin that he made an agreement that he wouldn’t go into detail or reveal questions that the Mueller team asked his client, but he did confirm that investigators were very interested in data.

Walden revealed that the Trump Campaign wanted to hire Cambridge Analytica, however, Trump did not want to be publicly associated with them since the data firm was owned by Robert Mercer. According to Walden, Kaiser got a call from then Campaign strategist Steve Bannon about how Trump wanted Bannon’s British contacts brought over right away, taken to Trump headquarters, and interviewed by Lewandowski. This is when things got really sordid.

According to Walden, Lewandowski wanted to use a conduit between the presidential campaign and Cambridge Analytica to conceal their relationship.

Cambridge Analytica was a UK company at the time and all of its key people were British citizens, said Walden. There are laws in the United States against using foreign nationals in decision-making capacities in a campaign.

Walden seems to think that was probably the most significant things Kaiser was privy to and likely what the Mueller team is interested in. Walden could not reveal how many times Kaiser met with Mueller, however.

We can only conclude that Robert Mueller is likely interested in the role Lewandowski played. ... tica-25641
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:39 am

The Data That Turned the World Upside Down

How Cambridge Analytica used your Facebook data to help the Donald Trump campaign in the 2016 election.

Hannes Grassegger & Mikael Krogerus

This article was originally published January 28, 2017.

Update: March 17, 2018: Facebook lawyer Paul Grewal announced in a blog post Friday that the company has suspended Strategic Communication Laboratories and its data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, from the platform.

According to Facebook, Aleksandr Kogan lied about deleting data that he obtained from a Facebook personality test and improperly passed it to third parties. As we and others have reported, Cambridge Analytica ultimately partnered with the Donald Trump campaign to leverage the data of millions of Facebook users to target them with advertisements and campaign material. The original investigation into Cambridge Analytica, published on Motherboard in January 2017 and in German in Das Magazin in December 2016, follows below.

On November 9 at around 8.30 AM., Michal Kosinski woke up in the Hotel Sunnehus in Zurich. The 34-year-old researcher had come to give a lecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) about the dangers of Big Data and the digital revolution. Kosinski gives regular lectures on this topic all over the world. He is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data-driven sub-branch of psychology. When he turned on the TV that morning, he saw that the bombshell had exploded: contrary to forecasts by all leading statisticians, Donald J. Trump had been elected president of the United States.

For a long time, Kosinski watched the Trump victory celebrations and the results coming in from each state. He had a hunch that the outcome of the election might have something to do with his research. Finally, he took a deep breath and turned off the TV.

On the same day, a then little-known British company based in London sent out a press release: "We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump's extraordinary win," Alexander James Ashburner Nix was quoted as saying. Nix is British, 41 years old, and CEO of Cambridge Analytica. He is always immaculately turned out in tailor-made suits and designer glasses, with his wavy blonde hair combed back from his forehead. His company wasn't just integral to Trump's online campaign, but to the UK's Brexit campaign as well.

Of these three players—reflective Kosinski, carefully groomed Nix and grinning Trump—one of them enabled the digital revolution, one of them executed it and one of them benefited from it.

How dangerous is big data?

Anyone who has not spent the last five years living on another planet will be familiar with the term Big Data. Big Data means, in essence, that everything we do, both on and offline, leaves digital traces. Every purchase we make with our cards, every search we type into Google, every movement we make when our mobile phone is in our pocket, every "like" is stored. Especially every "like." For a long time, it was not entirely clear what use this data could have—except, perhaps, that we might find ads for high blood pressure remedies just after we've Googled "reduce blood pressure."

On November 9, it became clear that maybe much more is possible. The company behind Trump's online campaign—the same company that had worked for Leave.EU in the very early stages of its "Brexit" campaign—was a Big Data company: Cambridge Analytica.

To understand the outcome of the election—and how political communication might work in the future—we need to begin with a strange incident at Cambridge University in 2014, at Kosinski's Psychometrics Center.

Psychometrics, sometimes also called psychographics, focuses on measuring psychological traits, such as personality. In the 1980s, two teams of psychologists developed a model that sought to assess human beings based on five personality traits, known as the "Big Five." These are: openness (how open you are to new experiences?), conscientiousness (how much of a perfectionist are you?), extroversion (how sociable are you?), agreeableness (how considerate and cooperative you are?) and neuroticism (are you easily upset?). Based on these dimensions—they are also known as OCEAN, an acronym for openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism—we can make a relatively accurate assessment of the kind of person in front of us. This includes their needs and fears, and how they are likely to behave. The "Big Five" has become the standard technique of psychometrics. But for a long time, the problem with this approach was data collection, because it involved filling out a complicated, highly personal questionnaire. Then came the Internet. And Facebook. And Kosinski.

Michal Kosinski was a student in Warsaw when his life took a new direction in 2008. He was accepted by Cambridge University to do his PhD at the Psychometrics Centre, one of the oldest institutions of this kind worldwide. Kosinski joined fellow student David Stillwell (now a lecturer at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge) about a year after Stillwell had launched a little Facebook application in the days when the platform had not yet become the behemoth it is today. Their MyPersonality app enabled users to fill out different psychometric questionnaires, including a handful of psychological questions from the Big Five personality questionnaire ("I panic easily," "I contradict others"). Based on the evaluation, users received a "personality profile"—individual Big Five values—and could opt-in to share their Facebook profile data with the researchers.

Followers of Lady Gaga were most probably extroverts, while those who "liked" philosophy tended to be introverts.

Kosinski had expected a few dozen college friends to fill in the questionnaire, but before long, hundreds, thousands, then millions of people had revealed their innermost convictions. Suddenly, the two doctoral candidates owned the largest dataset combining psychometric scores with Facebook profiles ever to be collected.

The approach that Kosinski and his colleagues developed over the next few years was actually quite simple. First, they provided test subjects with a questionnaire in the form of an online quiz. From their responses, the psychologists calculated the personal Big Five values of respondents. Kosinski's team then compared the results with all sorts of other online data from the subjects: what they "liked," shared or posted on Facebook, or what gender, age, place of residence they specified, for example. This enabled the researchers to connect the dots and make correlations.

Remarkably reliable deductions could be drawn from simple online actions. For example, men who "liked" the cosmetics brand MAC were slightly more likely to be gay; one of the best indicators for heterosexuality was "liking" Wu-Tang Clan. Followers of Lady Gaga were most probably extroverts, while those who "liked" philosophy tended to be introverts. While each piece of such information is too weak to produce a reliable prediction, when tens, hundreds, or thousands of individual data points are combined, the resulting predictions become really accurate.

Kosinski and his team tirelessly refined their models. In 2012, Kosinski proved that on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook "likes" by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn't stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol, cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From the data it was even possible to deduce whether someone's parents were divorced.

The strength of their modeling was illustrated by how well it could predict a subject's answers. Kosinski continued to work on the models incessantly: before long, he was able to evaluate a person better than the average work colleague, merely on the basis of ten Facebook "likes." Seventy "likes" were enough to outdo what a person's friends knew, 150 what their parents knew, and 300 "likes" what their partner knew. More "likes" could even surpass what a person thought they knew about themselves. On the day that Kosinski published these findings, he received two phone calls. The threat of a lawsuit and a job offer. Both from Facebook.

Michal Kosinski. Courtesy of Kosinski

Only weeks later Facebook "likes" became private by default. Before that, the default setting was that anyone on the internet could see your "likes." But this was no obstacle to data collectors: while Kosinski always asked for the consent of Facebook users, many apps and online quizzes today require access to private data as a precondition for taking personality tests. (Anybody who wants to evaluate themselves based on their Facebook "likes" can do so on Kosinski's website, and then compare their results to those of a classic Ocean questionnaire, like that of the Cambridge Psychometrics Center.)

Our smartphone, Kosinski concluded, is a vast psychological questionnaire that we are constantly filling out, both consciously and unconsciously.

But it was not just about "likes" or even Facebook: Kosinski and his team could now ascribe Big Five values based purely on how many profile pictures a person has on Facebook, or how many contacts they have (a good indicator of extraversion). But we also reveal something about ourselves even when we're not online. For example, the motion sensor on our phone reveals how quickly we move and how far we travel (this correlates with emotional instability). Our smartphone, Kosinski concluded, is a vast psychological questionnaire that we are constantly filling out, both consciously and unconsciously.

Above all, however—and this is key—it also works in reverse: not only can psychological profiles be created from your data, but your data can also be used the other way round to search for specific profiles: all anxious fathers, all angry introverts, for example—or maybe even all undecided Democrats? Essentially, what Kosinski had invented was sort of a people search engine. He started to recognize the potential—but also the inherent danger—of his work.

To him, the internet had always seemed like a gift from heaven. What he really wanted was to give something back, to share. Data can be copied, so why shouldn't everyone benefit from it? It was the spirit of a whole generation, the beginning of a new era that transcended the limitations of the physical world. But what would happen, wondered Kosinski, if someone abused his people search engine to manipulate people? He began to add warnings to most of his scientific work. His approach, he warned, "could pose a threat to an individual's well-being, freedom, or even life." But no one seemed to grasp what he meant.

Around this time, in early 2014, Kosinski was approached by a young assistant professor in the psychology department called Aleksandr Kogan. He said he was inquiring on behalf of a company that was interested in Kosinski's method, and wanted to access the MyPersonality database. Kogan wasn't at liberty to reveal for what purpose; he was bound to secrecy.

At first, Kosinski and his team considered this offer, as it would mean a great deal of money for the institute, but then he hesitated. Finally, Kosinski remembers, Kogan revealed the name of the company: SCL, or Strategic Communication Laboratories. Kosinski Googled the company: "[We are] the premier election management agency," says the company's website. SCL provides marketing based on psychological modeling. One of its core focuses: Influencing elections. Influencing elections? Perturbed, Kosinski clicked through the pages. What kind of company was this? And what were these people planning?

What Kosinski did not know at the time: SCL is the parent of a group of companies. Who exactly owns SCL and its diverse branches is unclear, thanks to a convoluted corporate structure, the type seen in the UK Companies House, the Panama Papers, and the Delaware company registry. Some of the SCL offshoots have been involved in elections from Ukraine to Nigeria, helped the Nepalese monarch against the rebels, whereas others have developed methods to influence Eastern European and Afghan citizens for NATO. And, in 2013, SCL spun off a new company to participate in US elections: Cambridge Analytica.

Kosinski knew nothing about all this, but he had a bad feeling. "The whole thing started to stink," he recalls. On further investigation, he discovered that Aleksandr Kogan had secretly registered a company doing business with SCL. According to a December 2015 report in The Guardian and to internal company documents given to Das Magazin, it emerges that SCL learned about Kosinski's method from Kogan.

Kosinski came to suspect that Kogan's company might have reproduced the Facebook "Likes"-based Big Five measurement tool in order to sell it to this election-influencing firm. He immediately broke off contact with Kogan and informed the director of the institute, sparking a complicated conflict within the university. The institute was worried about its reputation. Aleksandr Kogan then moved to Singapore, married, and changed his name to Dr. Spectre. Michal Kosinski finished his PhD, got a job offer from Stanford and moved to the US.

Mr. Brexit

All was quiet for about a year. Then, in November 2015, the more radical of the two Brexit campaigns, "Leave.EU," supported by Nigel Farage, announced that it had commissioned a Big Data company to support its online campaign: Cambridge Analytica. The company's core strength: innovative political marketing—microtargeting—by measuring people's personality from their digital footprints, based on the OCEAN model.

After the Brexit result, friends and acquaintances wrote to him: Just look at what you've done.

Now Kosinski received emails asking what he had to do with it—the words Cambridge, personality, and analytics immediately made many people think of Kosinski. It was the first time he had heard of the company, which borrowed its name, it said, from its first employees, researchers from the university. Horrified, he looked at the website. Was his methodology being used on a grand scale for political purposes?

After the Brexit result, friends and acquaintances wrote to him: Just look at what you've done. Everywhere he went, Kosinski had to explain that he had nothing to do with this company. (It remains unclear how deeply Cambridge Analytica was involved in the Brexit campaign. Cambridge Analytica would not discuss such questions.)

For a few months, things are relatively quiet. Then, on September 19, 2016, just over a month before the US elections, the guitar riffs of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" fill the dark-blue hall of New York's Grand Hyatt hotel. The Concordia Summit is a kind of World Economic Forum in miniature. Decision-makers from all over the world have been invited, among them Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann. "Please welcome to the stage Alexander Nix, chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica," a smooth female voice announces. A slim man in a dark suit walks onto the stage. A hush falls. Many in attendance know that this is Trump's new digital strategy man. (A video of the presentation was posted on YouTube.)

A few weeks earlier, Trump had tweeted, somewhat cryptically, "Soon you'll be calling me Mr. Brexit." Political observers had indeed noticed some striking similarities between Trump's agenda and that of the right-wing Brexit movement. But few had noticed the connection with Trump's recent hiring of a marketing company named Cambridge Analytica.

Alexander Nix. Image: Cambridge Analytica

"Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven," says Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix

Up to this point, Trump's digital campaign had consisted of more or less one person: Brad Parscale, a marketing entrepreneur and failed start-up founder who created a rudimentary website for Trump for $1,500. The 70-year-old Trump is not digitally savvy—there isn't even a computer on his office desk. Trump doesn't do emails, his personal assistant once revealed. She herself talked him into having a smartphone, from which he now tweets incessantly.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, relied heavily on the legacy of the first "social-media president," Barack Obama. She had the address lists of the Democratic Party, worked with cutting-edge big data analysts from BlueLabs and received support from Google and DreamWorks. When it was announced in June 2016 that Trump had hired Cambridge Analytica, the establishment in Washington just turned up their noses. Foreign dudes in tailor-made suits who don't understand the country and its people? Seriously?

"It is my privilege to speak to you today about the power of Big Data and psychographics in the electoral process." The logo of Cambridge Analytica— a brain composed of network nodes, like a map, appears behind Alexander Nix. "Only 18 months ago, Senator Cruz was one of the less popular candidates," explains the blonde man in a cut-glass British accent, which puts Americans on edge the same way that a standard German accent can unsettle Swiss people. "Less than 40 percent of the population had heard of him," another slide says. Cambridge Analytica had become involved in the US election campaign almost two years earlier, initially as a consultant for Republicans Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Cruz—and later Trump—was funded primarily by the secretive US software billionaire Robert Mercer who, along with his daughter Rebekah, is reported to be the largest investor in Cambridge Analytica.

"So how did he do this?" Up to now, explains Nix, election campaigns have been organized based on demographic concepts. "A really ridiculous idea. The idea that all women should receive the same message because of their gender—or all African Americans because of their race." What Nix meant is that while other campaigners so far have relied on demographics, Cambridge Analytica was using psychometrics.

Though this might be true, Cambridge Analytica's role within Cruz's campaign isn't undisputed. In December 2015 the Cruz team credited their rising success to psychological use of data and analytics. In Advertising Age, a political client said the embedded Cambridge staff was "like an extra wheel," but found their core product, Cambridge's voter data modeling, still "excellent." The campaign would pay the company at least $5.8 million to help identify voters in the Iowa caucuses, which Cruz won, before dropping out of the race in May.

Nix clicks to the next slide: five different faces, each face corresponding to a personality profile. It is the Big Five or OCEAN Model. "At Cambridge," he said, "we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America." The hall is captivated. According to Nix, the success of Cambridge Analytica's marketing is based on a combination of three elements: behavioral science using the OCEAN Model, Big Data analysis, and ad targeting. Ad targeting is personalized advertising, aligned as accurately as possible to the personality of an individual consumer.

Nix candidly explains how his company does this. First, Cambridge Analytica buys personal data from a range of different sources, like land registries, automotive data, shopping data, bonus cards, club memberships, what magazines you read, what churches you attend. Nix displays the logos of globally active data brokers like Acxiom and Experian—in the US, almost all personal data is for sale. For example, if you want to know where Jewish women live, you can simply buy this information, phone numbers included. Now Cambridge Analytica aggregates this data with the electoral rolls of the Republican party and online data and calculates a Big Five personality profile. Digital footprints suddenly become real people with fears, needs, interests, and residential addresses.

The methodology looks quite similar to the one that Michal Kosinski once developed. Cambridge Analytica also uses, Nix told us, "surveys on social media" and Facebook data. And the company does exactly what Kosinski warned of: "We have profiled the personality of every adult in the United States of America—220 million people," Nix boasts.

He opens the screenshot. "This is a data dashboard that we prepared for the Cruz campaign." A digital control center appears. On the left are diagrams; on the right, a map of Iowa, where Cruz won a surprisingly large number of votes in the primary. And on the map, there are hundreds of thousands of small red and blue dots. Nix narrows down the criteria: "Republicans"—the blue dots disappear; "not yet convinced"—more dots disappear; "male", and so on. Finally, only one name remains, including age, address, interests, personality and political inclination. How does Cambridge Analytica now target this person with an appropriate political message?

Alexander Nix at the 2016 Concordia Summit in New York. Image: Concordia Summit

Nix shows how psychographically categorized voters can be differently addressed, based on the example of gun rights, the 2nd Amendment: "For a highly neurotic and conscientious audience the threat of a burglary—and the insurance policy of a gun." An image on the left shows the hand of an intruder smashing a window. The right side shows a man and a child standing in a field at sunset, both holding guns, clearly shooting ducks: "Conversely, for a closed and agreeable audience. People who care about tradition, and habits, and family."

How to keep Clinton voters away from the ballot box

Trump's striking inconsistencies, his much-criticized fickleness, and the resulting array of contradictory messages, suddenly turned out to be his great asset: a different message for every voter. The notion that Trump acted like a perfectly opportunistic algorithm following audience reactions is something the mathematician Cathy O'Neil observed in August 2016.

These "dark posts"—sponsored Facebook posts that can only be seen by users with specific profiles—included videos aimed at African-Americans in which Hillary Clinton refers to black men as predators, for example.

"Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven," Alexander Nix remembers. On the day of the third presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Trump's team tested 175,000 different ad variations for his arguments, in order to find the right versions above all via Facebook. The messages differed for the most part only in microscopic details, in order to target the recipients in the optimal psychological way: different headings, colors, captions, with a photo or video. This fine-tuning reaches all the way down to the smallest groups, Nix explained in an interview with us. "We can address villages or apartment blocks in a targeted way. Even individuals."

In the Miami district of Little Haiti, for instance, Trump's campaign provided inhabitants with news about the failure of the Clinton Foundation following the earthquake in Haiti, in order to keep them from voting for Hillary Clinton. This was one of the goals: to keep potential Clinton voters (which include wavering left-wingers, African-Americans, and young women) away from the ballot box, to "suppress" their vote, as one senior campaign official told Bloomberg in the weeks before the election. These "dark posts"—sponsored news-feed-style ads in Facebook timelines that can only be seen by users with specific profiles—included videos aimed at African-Americans in which Hillary Clinton refers to black men as predators, for example.

Nix finishes his lecture at the Concordia Summit by stating that traditional blanket advertising is dead. "My children will certainly never, ever understand this concept of mass communication." And before leaving the stage, he announced that since Cruz had left the race, the company was helping one of the remaining presidential candidates.

Just how precisely the American population was being targeted by Trump's digital troops at that moment was not visible, because they attacked less on mainstream TV and more with personalized messages on social media or digital TV. And while the Clinton team thought it was in the lead, based on demographic projections, Bloomberg journalist Sasha Issenberg was surprised to note on a visit to San Antonio—where Trump's digital campaign was based—that a "second headquarters" was being created. The embedded Cambridge Analytica team, apparently only a dozen people, received $100,000 from Trump in July, $250,000 in August, and $5 million in September. According to Nix, the company earned over $15 million overall. (The company is incorporated in the US, where laws regarding the release of personal data are more lax than in European Union countries. Whereas European privacy laws require a person to "opt in" to a release of data, those in the US permit data to be released unless a user "opts out.")

Groundgame, an app for election canvassing that integrates voter data with "geospatial visualization technology," was used by campaigners for Trump and Brexit. Image: L2

The measures were radical: From July 2016, Trump's canvassers were provided with an app with which they could identify the political views and personality types of the inhabitants of a house. It was the same app provider used by Brexit campaigners. Trump's people only rang at the doors of houses that the app rated as receptive to his messages. The canvassers came prepared with guidelines for conversations tailored to the personality type of the resident. In turn, the canvassers fed the reactions into the app, and the new data flowed back to the dashboards of the Trump campaign.

Again, this is nothing new. The Democrats did similar things, but there is no evidence that they relied on psychometric profiling. Cambridge Analytica, however, divided the US population into 32 personality types, and focused on just 17 states. And just as Kosinski had established that men who like MAC cosmetics are slightly more likely to be gay, the company discovered that a preference for cars made in the US was a great indication of a potential Trump voter. Among other things, these findings now showed Trump which messages worked best and where. The decision to focus on Michigan and Wisconsin in the final weeks of the campaign was made on the basis of data analysis. The candidate became the instrument for implementing a big data model.

What's Next?

But to what extent did psychometric methods influence the outcome of the election? When asked, Cambridge Analytica was unwilling to provide any proof of the effectiveness of its campaign. And it is quite possible that the question is impossible to answer.

And yet there are clues: There is the fact of the surprising rise of Ted Cruz during the primaries. Also there was an increased number of voters in rural areas. There was the decline in the number of African-American early votes. The fact that Trump spent so little money may also be explained by the effectiveness of personality-based advertising. As does the fact that he invested far more in digital than TV campaigning compared to Hillary Clinton. Facebook proved to be the ultimate weapon and the best election campaigner, as Nix explained, and as comments by several core Trump campaigners demonstrate.

Cambridge Analytica counts among its clients the U.S. State Department, and has been reported to have communicated with British Prime Minister Theresa May, pictured here with Secretary of State John Kerry on July 19, 2016. Image: U.S. Dept. of State

Many voices have claimed that the statisticians lost the election because their predictions were so off the mark. But what if statisticians in fact helped win the election—but only those who were using the new method? It is an irony of history that Trump, who often grumbled about scientific research, used a highly scientific approach in his campaign.

Another big winner is Cambridge Analytica. Its board member Steve Bannon, former executive chair of the right-wing online newspaper Breitbart News, has been appointed as Donald Trump's senior counselor and chief strategist. Whilst Cambridge Analytica is not willing to comment on alleged ongoing talks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Alexander Nix claims that he is building up his client base worldwide, and that he has received inquiries from Switzerland, Germany, and Australia. His company is currently touring European conferences showcasing their success in the United States. This year three core countries of the EU are facing elections with resurgent populist parties: France, Holland and Germany. The electoral successes come at an opportune time, as the company is readying for a push into commercial advertising.

Kosinski has observed all of this from his office at Stanford. Following the US election, the university is in turmoil. Kosinski is responding to developments with the sharpest weapon available to a researcher: a scientific analysis. Together with his research colleague Sandra Matz, he has conducted a series of tests, which will soon be published. The initial results are alarming: The study shows the effectiveness of personality targeting by showing that marketers can attract up to 63 percent more clicks and up to 1,400 more conversions in real-life advertising campaigns on Facebook when matching products and marketing messages to consumers' personality characteristics. They further demonstrate the scalability of personality targeting by showing that the majority of Facebook Pages promoting products or brands are affected by personality and that large numbers of consumers can be accurately targeted based on a single Facebook Page.

In a statement after the German publication of this article, 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."

The world has been turned upside down. Great Britain is leaving the EU, Donald Trump is president of the United States of America. And in Stanford, Kosinski, who wanted to warn against the danger of using psychological targeting in a political setting, is once again receiving accusatory emails. "No," says Kosinski, quietly and shaking his head. "This is not my fault. I did not build the bomb. I only showed that it exists."

Additional research for this report was provided by Paul-Olivier Dehaye. ... harebutton

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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Mar 25, 2019 7:16 am


Christopher Wylie's revelations about Cambridge Analytica and its use of Facebook data kickstarted a privacy reckoning that is still playing out across the tech industry.JAKE NAUGHTON/THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES
ON OCTOBER 27, 2012, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote an email to his then-director of product development. For years, Facebook had allowed third-party apps to access data on their users’ unwitting friends, and Zuckerberg was considering whether giving away all that information was risky. In his email, he suggested it was not: “I’m generally skeptical that there is as much data leak strategic risk as you think,” he wrote at the time. “I just can’t think of any instances where that data has leaked from developer to developer and caused a real issue for us.”

If Zuckerberg had a time machine, he might have used it to go back to that moment. Who knows what would have happened if, back in 2012, the young CEO could envision how it might all go wrong? At the very least, he might have saved Facebook from the devastating year it just had.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to testify before Congress in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES
But Zuckerberg couldn't see what was right in front of him—and neither could the rest of the world, really—until March 17, 2018, when a pink-haired whistleblower named Christopher Wylie told The New York Times and The Guardian/Observer about a firm called Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica had purchased Facebook data on tens of millions of Americans without their knowledge to build a “psychological warfare tool,” which it unleashed on US voters to help elect Donald Trump as president. Just before the news broke, Facebook banned Wylie, Cambridge Analytica, its parent company SCL, and Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher who collected the data, from the platform. But those moves came years too late and couldn't stem the outrage of users, lawmakers, privacy advocates, and media pundits. Immediately, Facebook’s stock price fell and boycotts began. Zuckerberg was called to testify before Congress, and a year of contentious international debates about the privacy rights of consumers online commenced. On Friday, Kogan filed a defamation lawsuit against Facebook.

Wylie’s words caught fire, even though much of what he said was already a matter of public record. In 2013, two University of Cambridge researchers published a paper explaining how they could predict people’s personalities and other sensitive details from their freely accessible Facebook likes. These predictions, the researchers warned, could “pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life.” Cambridge Analytica's predictions were based largely on this research. Two years later, in 2015, a Guardian writer named Harry Davies reported that Cambridge Analytica had collected data on millions of American Facebook users without their permission, and used their likes to create personality profiles for the 2016 US election. However, in the heat of the primaries, with so many polls, news stories, and tweets to dissect, most of America paid no attention.

The difference was when Wylie told this story in 2018, people knew how it ended—with the election of Donald J. Trump.


This is not to say that the backlash was, as Cambridge Analytica's former CEO Alexander Nix has claimed, some bad-faith plot by anti-Trumpers unhappy with the election outcome. There’s more than enough evidence of the company's unscrupulous business practices to warrant all the scrutiny it’s received. But it is also true that politics can be destabilizing, like the transportation of nitroglycerin. Despite the theories and suppositions that had been floating around about how data could be misused, for a lot of people, it took Trump’s election, Cambridge Analytica’s loose ties to it, and Facebook’s role in it to see that this squishy, intangible thing called privacy has real-world consequences.

Cambridge Analytica may have been the perfect poster child for how data can be misused. But the Cambridge Analytica scandal, as it's been called, was never just about the firm and its work. In fact, the Trump campaign repeatedly has insisted that it didn't use Cambridge Analytica's information, just its data scientists. And some academics and political practitioners doubt that personality profiling is anything more than snake oil. Instead, the scandal and backlash grew to encompass the ways that businesses, including but certainly not limited to Facebook, take more data from people than they need, and give away more than they should, often only asking permission in the fine print—if they even ask at all.

One year since it became front-page news, Cambridge Analytica executives are still being called to Congress to answer for their actions over the 2016 election. Yet the conversation about privacy largely has moved on from the now-defunct firm, which shut down its offices last May. That's a good thing. As Cambridge Analytica faded to the background, other important questions emerged, like how Facebook may have given special data deals to device makers, or why Google tracks people's location even after they've turned location tracking off.

Alexander Nix and other former Cambridge Analytica executives are still being called to Congress over the 2016 election.BRYAN BEDDER/GETTY IMAGES
There has been a growing recognition that companies can no longer be left to regulate themselves, and some states have begun to act on it. Vermont implemented a new law that requires data brokers which buy and sell data from third parties to register with the state. In California, a law is set to go into effect in January that would, among other things, give residents the ability to opt out of having their data sold. Multiple states have introduced similar bills in the past few months alone. On Capitol Hill, Congress is considering the contours of a federal data protection law—though progress is, as always in Washington, slow-going.

These scandals and blowbacks have badly bruised Facebook and arguably the entire tech industry. If Zuckerberg had trouble seeing the "risk" associated with sloppy privacy protections back in 2012, they should be all too familiar to him now. Facebook faces a potential record fine by the Federal Trade Commission, and just this week news broke that the company is under criminal investigation for its data sharing policies.

At the same time, the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica flap has prompted Facebook to—at least in some respects—change its ways. Last week, in a hotly contested blog post, Zuckerberg claimed that Facebook’s future hinges on privacy. He said that Facebook will add end-to-end encryption to both Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct as part of a grand plan to create a new social network for private communications.

Critics have debated whether Zuckerberg finally has seen the light, or if he is actually motivated by more mercenary interests. Still, encrypting those chats would instantly enhance the privacy of billions of people's personal messages worldwide. Of course, it could also do plenty of damage, creating even more dark spaces on the internet for misinformation to spread and for criminal activity to fester. Just this past week, one of Zuckerberg's most trusted allies, Facebook's chief product officer Chris Cox, announced he was leaving Facebook, a decision that reportedly has a lot to do with these concerns.

A year after the Cambridge Analytica story broke, none of these questions about privacy has yielded easy answers for companies, regulators, or consumers who want the internet to stay convenient and free, and also want control over their information. But the ordeal at least has forced these conversations, once purely the domain of academics and privacy nerds, into the mainstream.

If only the world had seen it coming sooner. ... awakening/

Secret Emails Allegedly Show Facebook Knew About Cambridge Analytica Scandal Earlier Than Admitted
Zuckerberg told Congress the company learned what political consultants were doing when the rest of the world learned. D.C.’s attorney general believes otherwise.
Kelly Weill,
Kevin Poulsen
03.22.19 2:32 PM ET

Etienne Laurent/Shutterstock
Private emails could contradict Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s sworn testimony about when Facebook learned about the Cambridge Analytica data breach.

The social media giant and Washington, D.C.’s attorney general are sparring over an internal email chain that allegedly shows Facebook employees discussing Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal in September 2015. Those alleged emails came months before Facebook claims it learned that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm founded by backers of Donald Trump, was scraping millions of Facebook users’ information without their knowledge.

Facebook and the attorney general are in court Friday to argue whether those emails can be viewed by the public. If unsealed, their contents might contradict sworn testimony Zuckerberg made before Congress last year. It’s part of a lawsuit filed by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, accusing Facebook of failing to protect user data.

Facebook claims it learned about Cambridge Analytica’s dealings at the same time as the public, in December 2015. That’s when the Guardian reported that Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign was using psychological profiles compiled from tens of millions of unwitting Facebook users’ personal information.

The data was mined by former psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan using a personality quiz. Kogan later sold the data to Cambridge Analytica, who hired him as a contractor in 2014.

“The general public itself has little or no interest in this Document that could warrant exposing Facebook to the risks that would inevitably accompany disclosure.”
— Facebook
Subsequent revelations, including statements from a whistleblower in 2018, showed that Kogan’s app had exploited a feature of Facebook’s architecture that also let it harvest personal information from friends of people who used the app. Up to 87 million users may have had their information scraped, Facebook estimated.

The terms-of-service in the app told users’ plainly that Kogan intended to “edit, copy, disseminate, publish, transfer, append or merge with other databases, sell, license (by whatever means and on whatever terms) and archive your contribution and data.” Facebook was given the terms-of-service during the app approval process, but later admitted it never read the language. App users’ friends received no disclosure.

“When Facebook learned about Kogan’s breach of Facebook’s data use policies in December 2015, we took immediate action,” Zuckerberg testified before Congress last year. “The company retained an outside firm to assist in investigating Kogan’s actions, to demand that Kogan and each party he had shared data with delete the data and any derivatives of the data, and to obtain certifications that they had done so.”

But the D.C. attorney general’s office claims to have documents indicating otherwise. On Monday, the office filed a motion to unseal emails from September 2015, which purportedly showed U.S.-based Facebook employees expressing concerns about Cambridge Analytica.

“A D.C.-based Facebook employee warned the company that Cambridge Analytica was a ‘[redacted]’ asked other Facebook employees to ‘[redacted]’ and received responses that Cambridge Analytica’s data-scraping practices were ‘[redacted]’ with Facebook’s Platform Policy,” the redacted motion to unseal reads.

Facebook has fought back against revealing the emails’ contents, and is going to court Friday afternoon for a judgment on whether the emails will be made public.

“The Document contains sensitive commercial information regarding the ‘inner workings’ of Facebook's business that should be protected against disclosure,” Facebook wrote in a motion opposing release of the email. Making it public “could provide competitors with valuable insights into how Facebook operates. The general public itself has little or no interest in this Document that could warrant exposing Facebook to the risks that would inevitably accompany disclosure.”

Facebook’s Still Spying on You

The company told the Guardian that those emails pertained to a different Cambridge Analytica incident, and not the breach reported in December 2015.

“In September 2015 employees heard speculation that Cambridge Analytica was scraping data, something that is unfortunately common for any internet service,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “In December 2015, we first learned through media reports that Kogan sold data to Cambridge Analytica, and we took action. Those were two different things.”

It’s a response typical of the company’s approach to scandal, effectively arguing the email should stay private because it pertains to a completely different alleged data spill—engineered, not by a psychology researcher, but directly by Cambridge Analytica—that the company has taken pains to conceal.

“Facebook has not publicly disseminated the Document or its contents and, given its confidentiality, has sought assurances from any government agencies or entities to whom it has produced the Document that they too would maintain its confidentiality,” the company wrote in its court brief.

The A.G.’s motion accuses Facebook of “seek[ing] to avoid publicizing its employees’ candid assessments of how multiple third-parties violated Facebook’s policies.”

The battle over the document is just one front in a protracted war between Facebook and multiple governments. In the U.K., the company is facing a similar investigation into whether it violated users’ privacy. The U.K. has stricter laws for data misuse, suggesting graver consequences for Facebook if it is found to have been negligent with users’ information. Last July, the U.K. slapped Facebook with a £500,000 (approximately $660,000) fine over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook is currently appealing the ruling.

British lawmaker Damian Collins, who has led his country’s charge against Facebook, suggested the September 2015 emails could mean the company was misleading in testimony before British Parliament.

“This important new information could suggest that Facebook has consistently mislead the @CommonsCMS about what it knew and when about Cambridge Analytica,” he tweeted Thursday.

Last week Kogan filed a defamation lawsuit against Facebook accusing the company of scapegoating him when it claimed falsely that his app was approved under false pretenses.

“Instead of accepting the uncomfortable glare of the spotlight and accepting responsibility for any mistakes it might have made, Facebook went into ‘PR crisis mode,’ quickly seizing upon Dr. Kogan as a convenient scapegoat,” Kogan’s complaint charges. ... ref=scroll

The Cambridge Analytica scandal changed the world – but it didn't change Facebook
Julia Carrie WongMon 18 Mar 2019 01.00 EDT
A year after devastating revelations of data misuse, Mark Zuckerberg still hasn’t fulfilled his promises to reform

Mark Zuckerberg testifies before on Capitol Hill in 2018 following the privacy scandal.
Mark Zuckerberg testifies before on Capitol Hill in 2018 following the privacy scandal. Photograph: Xinhua / Barcroft Images
It can be hard to remember from down here, beneath the avalanche of words and promises and apologies and blogposts and manifestos that Facebook has unleashed upon us over the course of the past year, but when the Cambridge Analytica story broke one year ago, Mark Zuckerberg’s initial response was a long and deafening silence.

It took five full days for the founder and CEO of Facebook – the man with total control over the world’s largest communications platform – to emerge from his Menlo Park cloisters and address the public. When he finally did, he did so with gusto, taking a new set of talking points (“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you”) on a seemingly unending roadshow, from his own Facebook page to the mainstream press to Congress and on to an oddly earnest discussion series he’s planning to subject us to at irregular intervals for the rest of 2019.

The culmination of all that verbosity came earlier this month, when Zuck unloaded a 3,000-word treatise on Facebook’s “privacy-focused” future (a phrase that somehow demands both regular quotation marks and ironic scare quotes), a missive that was perhaps best described by the Guardian’s Emily Bell as “the nightmarish college application essay of an accomplished sociopath”.

While it appears that Facebook is suddenly ‘woke’ to privacy issues, it’s safe to assume it’s business as usual there
Ashkan Soltani, formerly of the FTC
The so-called pivot to privacy is in many ways the logical conclusion to the earth-shaking (and market-moving) response to the Cambridge Analytica story, which plunged Facebook into the greatest crisis in its then 14-year history. After nearly a year of its critics demanding that it respect users’ privacy, here was Facebook saying: “Fine, privacy you shall have.” (More on whether what’s being offered is actually privacy later.)

But it’s worth thinking back to those five days of silence, when the contours of the scandal took shape and revealed themselves with an uncanny distinction: when it came to Facebook, the Cambridge Analytica story did not uncover anything new. The basic facts had already been reported, in the same publication, 16 months previously: Facebook had allowed someone to extract vast amounts of private information about vast numbers of people from its system, and that entity had passed the data along to someone else, who had used it for political ends.

What changed was how we saw those facts. It was as if we had all gone away on a long voyage, returned home to an uneasy sense that something was different, and were not immediately able to grasp that it was ourselves who had changed and not the rooms and furnishings that surrounded us.

Facebook’s PR machine spent much of the first 24 hours after the story broke engaged in a pedantic and self-defeating argument over whether or not what had occurred constituted a “data breach”. By information security standards, Facebook was correct that what occurred was not a “data breach” – as representatives wrote, “no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked”.

But a year later, and in the aftermath of an actual, vast data breach in October, it is apparent that a data breach would have been easier for Facebook’s reputation to weather. Almost every company has suffered a big data breach at this point; only Facebook has endured such an existential reckoning. That’s because what happened with Cambridge Analytica was not a matter of Facebook’s systems being infiltrated, but of Facebook’s systems working as designed: data was amassed, data was extracted, and data was exploited.

At the end of 2018, Zuck debuted a new talking point, asserting that in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook had “fundamentally altered [its] DNA”.

Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, departs after meeting with House Democrats, on Capitol Hill in April. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP
Whether Zuckerberg actually believes that is an open question, but it’s clear that few outside Facebook do. “While it appears that Facebook is suddenly ‘woke’ to privacy issues, it’s safe to assume it’s business as usual there,” said Ashkan Soltani, a former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission.

“They keep actually putting growth and profits above designing a platform that’s predicated on the needs of its users,” said Lindsey Barrett, a teaching fellow and staff attorney at Georgetown’s Communications and Technology Clinic. As a particularly blatant example of this mindset, Barrett cited Facebook’s insistence on using phone numbers that users provided for security reasons for non-security purposes.

Zuckerberg did make a number of specific promises after the Cambridge Analytica story broke. I asked the company for an update on a number of these, and can only offer the Harvard dropout an “incomplete”.

On 19 March 2018, Facebook said it was pursuing a forensic audit of Cambridge Analytica and other parties involved in the data misuse, but it stood down after the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) began its own investigation. A Facebook spokeswoman said on 13 March that the company was still waiting for approval from the ICO to perform any such audit.

On 21 March 2018, Zuckerberg promised that Facebook would investigate “all apps that had access to large amounts of information” through the platform before 2014, audit any app with suspicious activity and ban any developer who misused personally identifiable information. Facebook provided regular updates on this investigation until 22 August 2018, when the company revealed in a blogpost that it had investigated thousands of third-party apps and suspended “more than 400”. Seven months later, a spokeswoman said that the investigation was continuing, but provided the same numbers: thousands investigated, more than 400 banned.

On 1 May, Facebook made its most ambitious promise – the creation of a “clear history” tool that would allow users to force Facebook to delete all the information it gathers about users as they browse the web. At the time, Facebook said the tool would “take a few months to build”. As BuzzFeed News pointed out in February, it’s been more than a few months. A Facebook spokeswoman did not provide a timeline for when the tool might actually be available, saying that it was taking time to get the tool right.

The other major promise – the big one – is the pivot to “privacy” announced this month. The actual details of this plan are much more mundane, and involve much less actual privacy, than Zuckerberg’s manifesto would like us to believe. The CEO is planning to integrate all three of his company’s messaging platforms – WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger – into one, which will have end-to-end encryption.

The overwhelming consensus from privacy experts is that this plan has little to do with protecting privacy and everything to do with protecting market share. “They are incredibly adept at strategically using privacy as a justification for an anticompetitive strategy – and the shift to encrypted-messaging or ‘delete history’ makes sense when you consider the impending regulatory pressures around interoperability and data-portability,” said Soltani.

The most obvious of those impending pressures is the increasingly popular idea of taking anti-trust action against Facebook, an idea that has gone from the fringes of the thinktank world to the center of a major 2020 Democratic presidential candidate’s agenda with dramatic speed.

“Once the integration of those three messaging platforms happens, it will be almost technically impossible to break Facebook up,” said Jonathan Albright, director of the Digital Forensics Initiative at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. “It won’t happen. You can’t do it. And that’s exactly why they’re moving so quickly to do it.”

That “Break Up Big Tech” would be a 2020 campaign slogan was unimaginable just two years ago. Zuckerberg, lest we forget, spent much of 2017 cosplaying a politician on his very own whistlestop tour around the country.

And yet, here we are. The Cambridge Analytica revelations may not have changed Facebook, but they did change us. Our eyes are now open. The question is what we will do.

The powerful in tech…

… must keep being challenged with bold investigative journalism. It’s been a year since The Observer and The Guardian broke the story that became the Cambridge Analytica scandal, exposing the truth and shedding light on the reality of foul play within the tech industry. We saw how personal data could be harvested on an unprecedented scale to fulfil the ambitions of the powerful. Through this courageous investigative reporting, we shamed Facebook, and prompted a global conversation about the importance of data privacy, holding tech companies to account and pressuring governments to enact regulation. ... e-facebook

Cambridge Analytica Secrets Allegedly Covered Up by Trump Campaign Veterans
The High Court in London heard that former insiders, including Rebekah Mercer, were pulling the strings of “biased” officials responsible for the fate of the company.
Nico Hines
03.18.19 5:48 PM ET

Neil P. Mockford/Getty
LONDON—British political consultants that worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign liked to boast that they could deploy dirty tricks and twist democracies all over the world without the risk of detection.

The High Court in London heard on Monday that Cambridge Analytica was up to its old tricks from beyond the grave—by surreptitiously trying to halt investigations that could expose allegedly nefarious tactics before the company was shut down for good.

The company filed for the British equivalent of chapter 11 bankruptcy last year after secret recordings of its boss, Alexander Nix, emerged in which he claimed that Trump’s data gurus had carried out illicit election campaigns all over the world. The company was also accused of using up to 87 million clandestinely harvested Facebook profiles to create a state of the art voter database that helped Trump win election in 2016.

Cambridge Analytica’s Dirty Tricks Elected Trump, CEO Claims

Nico Hines

A lawyer representing a New York professor, who believes his private data was misused by the notorious campaign operatives, claims Cambridge Analytica’s data secrets are being shielded from justice and exposure by administrators in the pay of a shadow company set up by a band of executives linked to the Trump campaign veterans.

The High Court heard that administrators had deliberately misled a judge during a previous hearing by obfuscating their financial links to Emerdata, a company which was set up by Nix, Rebekah Mercer, and other senior figures who were previously involved with Cambridge Analytica.

In Britain, court-appointed administrators are supposed to work independently on behalf of all creditors to take over running of the company, similar to chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. But the legal team of David Carroll, an associate professor at Parsons School in New York who is fighting for access to the data compiled on him, claimed that the administrators of Cambridge Analytica has succumbed to undue influence. Emerdata appointed the administrator and subsequently committed to pay them up to $1 million in fees.

The administrators, Vincent Green and Mark Newman of Crowe U.K. LLP, were accused of trying to liquidate the company before a full investigation into the company could be held.

“It is extremely unusual, in my submission, to have the fees of an administrator underwritten effectively by the people who may themselves be the principal focus of any subsequent investigation,” said Andreas Gledhill Q.C., the lawyer representing Carroll in court.

“It's about searching for the answers and triggering accountability.”
— David Carroll
Carroll’s team hope the High Court judge will fire the administrator and pass the case to government receivers who would then appoint a new administrator willing to investigate legal breaches at Cambridge Analytica and five other interrelated companies.

“This needs to go to the official receiver and there needs to be a whole set of investigations—someone needs to crack the vault,” Ravi Naik, a lawyer for Carroll told The Daily Beast outside court. “Without this case being successful, there cannot be an investigation because the company will liquidate. This is the dying embers.”

In documents submitted to the court, Gledhill claimed that Emerdata was due to pay the administrator up to £800,000 ($1 million) but had only handed over around £220,000 ($290,000) so far.

“With their legal fees funded by Emerdata, the administrators have treated this as hostile litigation between themselves and Mr. Carroll, making their lack of independence abundantly clear,” Gledhill said.

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Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer, daughters of billionaire Trump donor Robert Mercer, are listed as directors of Emerdata. As is former Cambridge Analytica chairman Julian Wheatland, who is named on the list of people close to President Trump being probed by the House Judiciary Committee, alongside Nix, who resigned as a director of Emerdata on the same day that he was called back for further questioning by a committee in Britain’s House of Commons. Nix remains a shareholder.

The dispute between Carroll and Cambridge Analytica began when the professor read about the alleged use of data in the 2016 presidential campaign. Under British law, companies are required to disclose what information they hold on any individual who asks for it, so Carroll filed a formal request. Cambridge Analytica repeatedly refused to hand the information over until it entered administration last year.

Cambridge Analytica’s Real Role in Trump’s Facebook Campaign

Kevin Poulsen

Notionally, Carroll’s involvement in this case is due to his role as a creditor who is potentially owed around £5,000 ($6,600) for the personal data breach.

“Even if I were to get the money, it's tiny fraction of the amount of money that I'm risking,” he told The Daily Beast. “It's about searching for the answers and triggering accountability. If it wasn't for me they would just rubberstamp it—and they'd be gone.”

His contention is that there are millions of other people whose data was stolen and misused by Cambridge Analytica.

On Monday, the High Court heard that press reports following Cambridge Analytica’s bankruptcy speculated that Emerdata might take up the baton and continue the controversial company’s work under another name.

Court documents submitted by Carroll’s team claimed that the administrators had also failed in their most basic duties: “Employees have refused to return laptops to the Administrators, and others have been stolen from the Administrators’ custody. Adding to concerns that the Cambridge Analytica business continues to be carried-on under another guise, as at November 2018, former employees were apparently still accessing its cloud-based infrastructure.”

Gledhill told the court that it was vital for Mr. Justice Norris to refuse to grant Crowe’s bid to become liquidators and shut the company down permanently.

“This case has attracted exceptional public interest and in our submission the standard of independence in this case should be correspondingly high. We say that the administrators cannot meet that standard both because of the appearance of bias and because they are in fact biased,” he said.

Gledhill claimed that Emerdata’s favored administrators had gone to extremes in order to avoid complying with the regulator which ordered Cambridge Analytica to respond to a subject access request (SAR) from Carroll. He wanted to know what information had been obtained on him, where it had come from, and how it was used. The Information Commissioner's Office ended up taking the company to court, and Cambridge Analytica parent company SCL was convicted of breaking the law in January.

Rebekah Mercer.
Patrick McMullan/Getty
“It speaks volumes about the extent to which the administrators are beholden to Emerdata that, despite their status as officers of the court… they preferred to expose [SCL] Elections to criminal sanction for failure to cooperate with a regulator, rather than yield an inch to Professor Carroll’s SAR.”

Gledhill said it may have been enough to avoid the conviction if the administrators had made their best endeavors to comply. “Had they done that in any subsequent criminal proceedings they would have had a defense … They didn't even try at all.”

He said that would have been easy: “What was there to prevent the administrator from sitting down with Mr. Nix or Mr. Wheatland” and asking what they remembered about where the vast swathes of data on up to 200 million American voters had come from?

Catherine Addy QC, representing the administrators in court, said her clients had cooperated as much as they could with the regulators. She said it was impossible to track down Carroll’s personal information amid 700 terabytes of data that has been seized by the Information Commission. She also insisted that the administrators had no idea that there was an ongoing process to access that material when they were appointed.

She claimed Carroll’s legal team was “using the media and political storm cloud” to try to hold up the normal procedures of the court.

The judge has reserved his judgment on whether Crowe should be dismissed as the administrator. He is expected to rule in the coming days. ... ref=scroll
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Apr 09, 2019 6:35 am


David Carroll

Retweeted Natasha Bertrand
Versions of the ultraviolent snuff videos produced by Cambridge Analytica/SCL and targeted by AIQ to throw that Nigeria election must have been taking up too much space. ... py/557438/

Sam Patten's attorneys say he concealed a payment from a Ukrainian oligarch to Trump's inaugural because he was "blinded by a desire to accommodate his client." His lawyers also say that he "erred" in deleting 200k emails following his interview with the Senate Intel Committee.

A Suspected Russian Spy, With Curious Ties to Washington
A longtime Republican operative has been in contact with a suspected Russian intelligence agent for nearly two decades. What does it mean for Robert Mueller's investigation?

Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers national security and the intelligence community.
Apr 6, 2018

Leah Millis / Reuters
A longtime Republican operative with ties to the controversial data firm hired by President Donald Trump’s campaign team also has a nearly two-decade-long friendship and business relationship with a suspected Russian intelligence agent, Konstantin Kilimnik, who has landed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s crosshairs.

The Washington-based operative, Sam Patten, would not tell me whether he has been interviewed by Mueller’s team as part of their investigation into Russia’s election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But Patten said that his relationship with Kilimnik—a former officer in Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) who worked closely with Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, for over a decade—has “been thoroughly explored by relevant government entities.”

Patten’s long friendship with Kilimnik—which stems from their time working together at the International Republican Institute in Moscow between 2001 and 2003—would likely be enough to draw scrutiny from Mueller, who appears to have homed in on Kilimnik as a potentially significant link between the Trump campaign and Russia. The special counsel’s office alleged in a court filing late last month that Kilimnik still had ties to Russian intelligence services in 2016, and that his conversations with Gates in September of that year are relevant to the investigation. Manafort and Gates’s arrival to the campaign team coincided with the most pivotal Russia-related episode of the election: the release of emails that had been stolen from the Democratic National Committee by hackers working for the GRU, Russia’s premier military-intelligence unit.

A man in Jerusalem walks past a Likud election-campaign billboard depicting President Donald Trump shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We’ve known each other for more than 15 years, and we periodically look for places we can work together,” Patten told me of Kilimnik. Their relationship is also proof that Kilimnik’s ability to ingratiate himself with American political consultants went beyond Manafort and Gates—a fact that could serve as a new data point in examining Russia’s ties to Republican operatives in the U.S. By the spring of 2015—when, as my colleague Frank Foer wrote, Manafort’s “life had tipped into a deep trough”—Kilimnik was already working on a new venture with Patten that appeared to be focused on targeted messaging in foreign elections.

That venture, first reported by The Daily Beast this week, was a private LLC incorporated in February 2015 called Begemot Ventures International (BVI) with a mission to “build the right arguments before domestic and international audiences.” Kilimnik is listed as the firm’s principal and Patten is listed as an executive, according to company records, and the company is registered to Patten’s office address in Washington. A website for Begemot—which was built almost two years after the company was incorporated—links to Patten’s email for inquiries, but does not list the company’s clients.

It is not clear why Patten, who already had a consulting firm registered in D.C., decided to open a brand-new company with Kilimnik. Asked whether any of the firm’s clients were in Russia or Ukraine, Patten replied, “It would be poor business to talk about our clients, but I can tell you declaratively that none of the clients have involvement in the particular circus in the U.S. that seems to have become a news industry in and of itself,” an apparent reference to the Russia investigation. He confirmed that the company, which he described as providing “strategic communications advice for clients outside the U.S.,” is still active, but said it has no projects ongoing at this time.

“BVI has only worked for clients outside U.S. in other countries,” Patten said. “As a result of all this, I regret it probably won’t be working for anyone anymore, but you never know. Life can be unpredictable.” Patten said that, “to the best of [his] knowledge,” Kilimnik “was no longer working for Manafort when BVI was formed.” But he acknowledged that Kilimnik and Manafort, who began working together in Kiev in 2005, “remained in touch, as is well-known.” Patten’s work in Ukraine dovetailed with Manafort’s. About eight months after BVI was incorporated, in October 2015, Patten was in Ukraine advising Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko on his reelection campaign. On his website, Patten writes that he “helped steer Mayor Klitschko to reelection in Ukraine’s capital and largest city in one of the toughest anti-government atmospheres in that country’s history.”

Serhiy Lyovochkin—the former chief of staff to ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who hired Manafort to rebrand the pro-Russia Party of Regions in 2014—brought Patten onto Klitschko’s team, Ukrainian media reported at the time. Dmitry Firtash, a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch with ties to Manafort who is known for bankrolling pro-Russia candidates in Ukraine, also boasted in 2015 that he was involved in Klitschko’s campaign. Asked whether Manafort coordinated with Patten and/or Kilimnik on Klitschko’s reelection campaign, a spokesman for Manafort said he had “nothing to add.”

Patten describes himself as an “international political consultant” on his website, but he worked at the Oregon office of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, helping to fine-tune the firm’s voter targeting operations in the runup to the 2014 midterm elections, according to investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, now a columnist for Middle East Eye. Patten alluded to this work on his website, writing that he worked with “one of London’s most innovative strategic communications companies” on “a beta run of a cutting-edge electoral approach” that “included taking micro-targeting to the next level” during the 2014 congressional cycle. Those technologies, he wrote, were “adopted by at least one major U.S. presidential candidate.”

Both Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump employed Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 election. Mueller is now scrutinizing the Trump campaign’s ties to Cambridge Analytica, whose board included Trump’s campaign CEO and former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Bannon interviewed Patten in July 2016 for his SiriusXM radio show, Breitbart News Daily, about a group Patten represents called the Committee to Destroy ISIS. There is no evidence that Patten did any work with Cambridge Analytica or the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. But his relationship with the data firm did not end with the 2014 midterm elections. According to The Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr, Patten “played a central role” in the firm’s work in Nigeria in early 2015—work that included hiring Israeli computer hackers to search for “kompromat,” or compromising information, on the candidate challenging the incumbent president at the time, Goodluck Jonathan. Patten didn’t respond to a request for comment about the Nigeria campaign.

Patten said that he remains in touch with Kilimnik, who he believes has been unfairly scrutinized. “As you might imagine, the barrage of shade and innuendo that has been cast on him since Manafort had his time in Trump Tower has not been something he’d welcomed, nor anything that could objectively be called fair,” Patten said, referring to Manafort’s role on the campaign, which was headquartered at Trump Tower.

Gates and Manafort—who were indicted by Mueller in late October on charges including money laundering and tax evasion—remained in touch with Kilimnik during the campaign, according to court documents and emails, even though both knew about Kilimnik’s background in Russian intelligence. Kilimnik later acknowledged in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that he and Manafort emailed each other “about Trump and everything” during the campaign. “There were millions of emails,” Kilimnik told RFERL in a text message. “We worked for 11 years. And we discussed a lot of issues, from Putin to women.” ... py/557438/

David Carroll
Cambridge Analytica’s “work” in Nigeria didn’t get the attention it deserved. But Sam Patten and Brittany Kaiser (also a Mueller subject) were allegedly pioneers of the new black ops for subverting democracies under the aegis of Alexander Nix.

Cambridge Analytica's ruthless bid to sway the vote in Nigeria
Carole CadwalladrWed 21 Mar 2018 15.00 EDT
Still terrified witnesses paint a shocking picture of how far a western firm will go to win an election

Nigeria’s former president Goodluck Jonathan
A rich supporter of Nigeria’s former president Goodluck Jonathan hired SCL for the 2015 elections. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images
If Britain hadn’t voted to leave the EU, and Trump hadn’t won the US election, it’s unlikely anyone outside Nigeria would have given a second thought to what went on during its presidential election campaign three years ago.

But the 20/20 vision of hindsight casts a very different light on the events of early 2015, and a campaign that now seems to eerily prefigure what happened in the US a year later. Many of the same characters, some of the same tactics.

At the heart of it all – data analytics company, SCL – the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. It had been hired by a rich Nigerian who supported the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan.

“It was the kind of campaign that was our bread and butter,” says one ex-employee. “We’re employed by a billionaire who’s panicking at the idea of a change of government and who wants to spend big to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

This was a standard variation on what SCL had done around the world for 30 years – this time, with a twist. Weaponising information to harm an opponent was standard methodology.

It was a methodology honed and developed in the company’s defence and military work – the fifth dimension of warfare, defined by the US military as “information operations”.

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: 'We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles' – video
What was new, or at least new to those employees who have now spoken out, was bringing these techniques to the company’s election work.

Seven individuals with close knowledge of the Nigeria campaign have described how Cambridge Analytica worked with people they believed were Israeli computer hackers.

The sources – who spoke to the Observer over many months – said the company was looking for “kompromat” on Muhammadu Buhari – at the time, leader of the opposition.

They said the hackers offered Cambridge Analytica access to private information about Buhari.

Their testimony paints an extraordinary picture of how far a western company would contemplate going in an effort to undermine the democratic process in a country that already struggles to provide free and fair elections.

Their claims are disputed by the company, which insists it did not take possession of or use any personal information for any purpose and did not use any “hacked or stolen data”.

The company confirmed, however, that it had been hired to provide “advertising and marketing services in support of the Goodluck Jonathan campaign”.

That work seems to have come about through Brittany Kaiser, a senior director at Cambridge Analytica, who would go on to play a public role at the launch of Nigel Farage’s campaign, and a senior strategist on the Trump campaign.

Regarded by colleagues as a prolific networker, in December 2014 she was introduced to a Nigerian oil billionaire who wanted to fund a covert campaign to support Jonathan.

The billionaire wanted total discretion.

An ex-employee said: “[Kaiser] got a phone call. It was just before Christmas and she flew out to meet them in Washington DC. It was all a bit ridiculous. It was only six to eight weeks before the election and they were looking to spend nearly $2m.”

The election was a big deal. At stake, the future of the most populous country in Africa, and potential access to its lucrative oil reserves. The sitting president was favourite to win, though Buhari was doing unexpectedly well.

Not least because his team had hired AKPD, once the firm of former Barack Obama strategist David Axelrod, which was pushing a slick, social media heavy Obama-esque message of hope.

“There were a lot of scared millionaires worried that Buhari would get in. It was all very last-minute. A team flew out to Abuja and put together a communications campaign. It was a straightforward, normal comms campaign in most respects,” the employee said.

Most but not all respects. The Observer has obtained an astonishing and disturbing video that Cambridge Analytica used in the campaign.

“Coming to Nigeria on February 15th, 2015,” the voiceover says in the manner of a trailer for a Hollywood movie.

“Dark. Scary. And very uncertain. Sharia for all.” And then it poses the question: “What would Nigeria look like if sharia were imposed by Buhari?”

Its answer to that question is certainly dark. And scary. It’s also graphically, brutally, violent. One minute and 19 seconds of archive news footage from Nigeria’s troubled past set to a horror movie soundtrack.

There are scenes of people being macheted to death. Their legs hacked off. Their skulls caved in. A former contractor said: “It was voter suppression of the most crude and basic kind. It was targeted at Buhari voters in Buhari regions to basically scare the shit out of them and stop them from voting.”

If Buhari wins, the film warns: women would wear the veil. Sharia law would be introduced. And the inference is, you may be macheted to death.

It wasn’t just videos spreading fear. The Cambridge Analytica campaign team in Nigeria were jumpy too.

“It felt risky, being there. There were various points when we were told we were in danger.” And in the Abuja hotel to which the team was confined in early 2015, rumours abounded.

The tales are Graham Greene-esque. The hotel was where slick western consultants, including a team from the now disgraced Bell Pottinger, partied with their Nigerian counterparts. Mingling among them, western intelligence operatives - state backed, or privately commissioned, nobody was quite sure.

And then there were the meetings: three sources have told the Guardian about one that took place between Cambridge Analytica employees and two people they were told were Israeli intelligence operatives.

“There was a two-hour meeting that took place in the hotel lobby between two senior campaign members and Israeli intelligence. After which they swept our hotel rooms for listening devices and said they would switch out our phones. The story we were told was that there were intelligence agents from a number of different countries, including Israel and France, who were supporting Goodluck Jonathan and helping the campaigns.”

There is no suggestion that Jonathan was aware of or implicated in this support. Another employee said: “Basically the Israelis didn’t want [Buhari] to win.”

Other employees questioned whether they were “real” Israeli intelligence operatives, or Israeli private contractors.

A few weeks later, as the campaign was drawing to a close, there was another meeting at Cambridge Analytica’s London office.

An expert had flown in from Israel with a laptop, sources say.

And Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica’s now suspended CEO, and Kaiser, asked employees to take a thumb drive and download the contents on to their own computers.

The content was private emails and the information, they were told, related to Buhari’s financial and medical records.

One employee who was present at the London meeting said he had initially assumed the visiting expert was Mossad or Israeli intelligence passing on what he called “legtimate information”.

But he began to realise this wasn’t the case, he said, when he saw the reaction of his colleagues. One of them had “freaked out”, he said. “He was like, ‘What the fuck? I don’t want anything to do with this.’”

The witnesses are clear – at least in their own minds. The information they were shown had come from hackers.

Back in Nigeria, the team still on the ground found out what was going on from their colleagues in London. There was more “freaking out”. This time with live, pressing concerns.

“They were fucking scared,” said a colleague who spoke to them while they were in the country. The campaign fixer, the person with local knowledge who navigated them through the ins and outs of Nigerian politics, made it clear to them: they needed to get out of the country right away.

Cambridge Analytica had put them all in danger, they said. If opposition supporters found out, there was no saying what might happen.

One member of the team missed his flight and instead of asking the office to re-book it, he got the first fight out – to Dubai – and put it on his credit card. “Everyone just wanted to get out as soon as possible.”

A spokesman for the company said its team remained in country throughout the original campaigning period had “left in accordance with the company’s campaign plan”.

“Team members were regularly briefed about security concerns prior to and during deployment and measures were taken to ensure the team’s safety throughout.”

There are multiple wider political questions about what went on in the Nigerian election of 2015 and the role western powers played. Whether western political campaigners taking lucrative foreign contracts are contributing to the democratic framework of developing countries – or helping to destroy them. If they’re experimenting with methods and techniques that they later re-import back to our more developed democracies.

Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower who spoke to the Observer, called it “post-colonial blowback”.

“The west found a way of firehosing disinformation into weak and vulnerable democracies. And now this has been turned back on us. This really is about our chickens coming home to roost.”

Another said: “Everything the company did after the Mercers got involved was about refining a set of techniques that they would go on to use in the US elections. These campaigns in other countries were experiments. They worked out how to harvest data and weaponise it. And they got steadily better at it.”

And what comes across most strongly, the sources say, is how little thought, if any, the senior directors in London had given to their employees and colleagues who became caught up in the activities, many of whom were in their early to mid-20s.

One member of staff who met the Israelis in the office on another occasion described them as “special forces” types. He said: “They were cliche alpha males with a certain intellect. Looked military, very composed. They looked like they could beat the crap out of you.”

Three years on, there is still stress in some of their voices when they recount these stories. Stress and fear and anger – about the danger they put in, and the lack of care shown toward them, the morally compromising position they were put in, the lack of knowledge they had about what sort of the company they would be working for when they took their jobs.

It’s why, despite the personal risks, so many of them agreed to speak.

“When I took that job, I did not sign up to any of this,” said one. Three years on, he is still angry and shocked and fearful. “You don’t know what this company is capable of,” he said.

In a statement, SCL Elections, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, confirmed it had been hired in December 2014 in support of the Jonathan campaign.

“We can confirm that SCL Elections was hired in December 2014 to provide advertising and marketing services in support of the Goodluck Jonathan campaign.”

Asked specifically about the meetings in which staff described being asked to transfer personal information that they believed had been hacked, the firm said: “During an election campaign, it is normal for SCL Elections to meet with vendors seeking to provide services as a subcontractor.

“SCL Elections did not take possession of or use any personal information from such individuals for any purposes. SCL Elections does not use ‘hacked’ or ‘stolen’ data.” ... in-nigeria ... 5139104768

Prosecutors Call Patten ‘Valuable Resource’ In Ongoing Criminal Probes
on August 31, 2018 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images North America
By Josh Kovensky
April 8, 2019 2:20 pm

International political consultant W. Samuel Patten has been a “valuable resource” in his cooperation with multiple criminal investigations, prosecutors said in a Monday sentencing memorandum.

In the filing, D.C. federal prosecutors continued the practice of special counsel Robert Mueller, who referred the case, and declined to recommend a specific sentence.

And though there are no sentencing guidelines for the Foreign Agents Registration Act — the foreign lobbying statute that Patten pleaded guilty to violating — prosecutors write that Patten, through his cooperation, “has satisfied the criteria set forth in the guidelines for a departure.”

“Therefore, the government formally moves the Court for such a ‘departure’ in this case so that the Court’s ultimately sentence properly reflects Patten’s substantial assistance to the government,” prosecutors write in the April 8 sentencing memo.

Patten admitted in his August 2018 guilty plea to illegally facilitating a foreign contribution to the Trump inaugural committee, thereby procuring tickets for his Ukrainian clients and for his former business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI purportedly assesses to be linked to Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors did not provide specific details about Patten’s cooperation in the filing, but wrote that he provided “helpful information about additional individuals and entities,” and that Patten had nine separate in person and over-the-phone meetings with the government.

“In all of these sessions, Patten has been honest and straightforward with government investigators,” the filing reads.

Patten will be sentenced by Judge Amy Berman Jackson on April 12. In addition to the inauguration scheme, he admitted to working with a Ukrainian political party that employed Paul Manafort to lobby its interests in the U.S.

In a filing earlier today, Patten asked for probation with no jail time. ... nal-probes
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Jul 14, 2019 11:46 am


Verified account

If you’ve been following my quest to repatriate my voter data from #CambridgeAnalytica, prepare to see this journey unfold like never before. #TheGreatHack is streaming worldwide on July 24.

Facebook’s $5 billion FTC fine is an embarrassing joke

Facebook gets away with it again ... ssing-joke
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They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:29 am


Cambridge Analytica 'privatised colonising operation', not a 'legitimate business', says whistleblower

Chris Wylie makes explosive allegations in session with MPs

By Rebecca Hill 28 Mar 2018 at 05:58
Working for Cambridge Analytica "felt very much like a privatised colonising operation," the former staffer at the centre of the scandal around Facebook data slurps and Vote Leave's alleged overspend has said.

Speaking to MPs today, Chris Wylie, the pink-haired whistleblower with a knack for flamboyant and quotable phrases, made a series of explosive allegations that ranged from the believable to the stuff of conspiracy theorists.

It was less than 10 minutes into a three-hour hearing in front of the UK's House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee before the session descended into what can only be described as lurid gossip about the death of Wylie's predecessor, Dan Muresa.

Wylie, who acknowledged he was repeating no more than pure speculation, told MPs that Muresa was poisoned in his hotel room after a deal went sour and that police were bribed not to enter for 24 hours.

The session - which committee chair Damian Collins said was the longest single-panel hearing they’d held - was part of the committee's inquiry into fake news, but has become subsumed by the ongoing controversy surrounding apps' use of Facebook users' data for military-style psy-ops.

The encounter, held just as the committee was knocked back by Zuck, saw star witness Wylie level a series of allegations about his the former company, its parent biz SCL Group and another political advertising biz, AggregateIQ, which he broadly accused of behaving unethically.

He also claimed that a coordinated effort between groups campaigning for the UK to leave the EU (which have been accused of over-spending) had swayed the result of the referendum.

Wylie said his reasons for coming clean was that he didn’t think “military style information operations is conducive for any democratic process, whether a US presidential or a local council race.”

When asked if he wanted to bring the companies he had worked for down, he replied: "Frankly, yes. Nothing good has come from Cambridge Analytica. It's not a legitimate business. SCL is not a legitimate business. So, yes, I don't think they should remain in business."

Summarising his feelings about the companies and execs, Wylie said that they don’t care whether or what they do is legal, as long as it gets the job done.

'There are a lot of reasons I find the company problematic'

His politically charged statements included that the business was “an example of what modern-day colonialism looks like,” alleging that it uses coercion and methods well beyond simple psychological profiling of Facebook users, to influence campaigns around the world.

Wylie said that Nix had a standard pitch that relied on his company’s Mayfair offices and his Eton education, which presents a very posh veneer and plays well in the Commonwealth countries the business targets.

“[It’s] a wealthy company from a developed nation going into an economy or democracy that’s still struggling to get on its feet on the ground and taking advantage of that to profit from it,” he said. “There are a lot of reasons I find the company problematic… It’s not just the data.”

Later in the session, Wylie said that part of SCL’s business model was to “capture a government” in such a way that it had access to ministers.

After that, they could start exploiting relationships and the fact that there’s not a lot of oversight in some African countries to introduce minsters to a company, so they made a deal and get a cut of that deal, Wylie recounted. The key thing, he said, was “you have to have your guy in power first.”

Cambridge Analytica has already denied allegations of wrongdoing in other nations. The firm has been accused of setting up ‘honey traps’ and sub-contracting former spies to help swing elections, after Nix was caught on Channel 4’s cameras bigging up what his firm could offer beyond data crunching to a person posing as a Sri Lankan businessman.

After suspending Nix, the biz issued a statement to say instead that it “undertakes conversations with prospective clients to try to tease out any unethical or illegal intentions”.

AggregateIQ, GSR, Palantir… Any more firms to mention?

The web of organisations and people getting sucked into the scandal is growing rapidly, and MPs used the session to try and tease apart some of the who-knew-what-when, although Cambridge Analytica has tried to argue that Wylie doesn’t have the knowledge he claims.

“Christopher Wylie was a part-time contractor who left in July 2014 and has no direct knowledge of our work or practices since that date,” the biz said during its live-tweeted rebuttals to his evidence.

Nonetheless, Wylie offered up his view of how things had gone down, including that Canadian political ad firm AggregateIQ - who official Brexit campaign Vote Leave spent £3m (about 40 per cent of their campaign budget) on - could be linked to CA’s parent biz SCL.

Wylie claimed that he had introduced Jeff Silvester, co-founder of AIQ, to Nix, and that this resulted in AIQ being set up as what the whistleblower referred to as a Canadian franchise.

AIQ, he said, built the Ripon platform that CA then used for its data analytics work, citing as evidence recent reports that code uploaded to GitHub showed SCL had asked for the code to be transferred to AIQ.

AIQ has issued a statement saying it has “never been and is not a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL”, has “never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica” (although it makes no mention, or denial, of a contract with SCL) and has “never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity.”

Wylie, though, said it is farcical to say AIQ didn’t have access to this data. He insisted that the biz must have had access to the data in question, arguing that this would have been a necessity if it was to develop the targeting software for SCL and CA.

“Cambridge Analytica would have the database, and AIQ would be able to access that, or the software doesn’t work,” he said.

Elsewhere in the session, Wylie claimed that Peter Thiel’s data analytics biz Palantir - whose largest client is the NSA - helped build the models they were working on at Cambridge Analytica.

Wylie said that the firms were introduced because Sophie Schmidt - daughter of Google’s Eric - worked with Nix and introduced him to Palantir; a claim Nix has previously refuted.

Sponsored: Balancing consumerization and corporate control

Page 2 of 2
The academic connection

The MPs also asked Wylie about the relationship between CA and Global Science Research, the firm set up by Cambridge academic Aleksander Kogan, who devised the This is Your Digital Life app that is alleged to have sucked in 50 million Facebook users’ details to develop psychological profiles to target ads against.

Wylie said that the relationship began as a very small pilot to ask if data was matchable to an electoral register, followed by a bigger one to make sure it could actually acquire the data in the speed that he said and then a much larger contract in June 2014.

He described this data as the foundational dataset that CA modeled its algorithms on, and claimed that the biz had signed a $1m contract to get its hands on it - claims CA denied.

Cambridge Analytica

It was far from a $1M project. We paid $500K for the GSR data. Once Facebook told us it breached their terms, we deleted the data and we pursued GSR for damages.

5:34 AM - Mar 27, 2018
Twitter Ads info and privacy

35 people are talking about this

Cambridge Analytica

It was far from a $1M project. We paid $500K for the GSR data. Once Facebook told us it breached their terms, we deleted the data and we pursued GSR for damages.

5:34 AM - Mar 27, 2018
Twitter Ads info and privacy

35 people are talking about this

The biz said that once Facebook had said that it had breached their terms it had deleted the data and was able to move on without the GSR data by commissioning new surveys and investing in commercial datasets. “Our algorithms and models bear no trace of it,” CA said.

Influencing Brexit

Wylie was also quizzed about the EU referendum, saying that he was absolutely convinced that there was a common plan between Vote Leave and the grassroots BeLeave and the Veterans for Britain groups, which Vote Leave allegedly funnelled money to AIQ through, along with the Democratic Union Party - which also used AIQ in the campaign.

“All of these companies somehow, for some reason, all decided to use AIQ,” he said, adding: "Why is it that all of a sudden, this company that has never worked on anything but Cambridge Analytica projects... somehow became the primary service provider to all of these supposedly independent campaign groups?"

Arguing that the concerted action was in breach of election law and was effectively cheating, he concluded: “It is completely reasonable to say that there could have been a different outcome in the referendum had there not been, in my view, cheating.”

He likened this to doping in the Olympics, saying that there is “not a debate about how much illegal drug you took… if you’re caught cheating you lose your medal”.

'I wasn't so devastated... I went on a vendetta'

Although Wylie was happy to opine on the importance of a true democratic process, he was comfortable when it came to his own involvement in the campaign, as MPs asked him about his approaches to Vote Leave campaign director Dominic Cummings.

Wylie - who said he is in favour of Brexit, but not at the expense of the "integrity of the democratic process" - admits to having approached Cummings to offer his services ahead of the referendum (after he had left CA), but told MPs his proposal was a pilot" and nothing more.

Cummings has issued a number of rebuttals to Wylie's claims in recent days, with one arising as the committee hearing went on, which described Wylie as a charlatan.

The committee said perhaps this was unfair, but asked whether Wylie had tried and failed to follow in Nix's footsteps in setting up a similar firm "hawking your wares" to Vote Leave, but didn't get the deal.

"Yes, but I wasn't so devastated... you have lots of meetings and it doesn’t [always] work out," said Wylie, appearing at his most flustered.

"Sorry, Dom, I wasn't so devastated that I couldn’t work with you that I've spent a year and a half on a vendetta to get back at you for a pilot project that didn't work out."

The MPs also pressed Wylie on when he deleted his copy of the data, which he said he did in 2015, and then confirmed this to Facebook in 2016.

Wylie also said that - although Facebook only changed its policy to stop apps being able to suck up info on users' friends in 2015 - he believed Facebook knew about the situation back in 2014, when he said Kogan “was delayed for a couple of days because Facebook had throttled the app so it couldn’t pull as much data”.

This is in line with Facebook’s developers’ blog, which shows the firm was aware of the privacy issues related to the Graph API loophole, but gave developers a year’s grace period before closing the tap

Wylie also claimed that Facebook didn’t want to make a big deal about the data that Kogan’s app had gathered when it was first made public in 2015 for fear of a PR backlash. He added that the most legal pushback he’d had was not from CA, but from Facebook.

“It’s Facebook that’s most upset about this story,” he said. “They sent some fairly intimidating legal correspondence. They haven’t taken action on that… They have gone silent, they won’t talk to me anymore.” ... tleblower/

Carole Cadwalladr Retweeted

TED Talks

Verified account


"We are what happens to a western democracy when a hundred years of electoral laws are disrupted by technology. Our democracy is broken, our laws don't work anymore." @carolecadwalla

In an unmissable talk, journalist Carole Cadwalladr digs into one of the most perplexing events in recent times: the UK's super-close 2016 vote to leave the European Union. Tracking the result to a barrage of misleading Facebook ads targeted at vulnerable Brexit swing voters -- and linking the same players and tactics to the 2016 US presidential election -- Cadwalladr calls out the "gods of Silicon Valley" for being on the wrong side of history and asks: Are free and fair elections a thing of the past? ... _democracy

Wendy Siegelman

There may be news soon on the opaque Cambridge Analytica company - Emerdata Ltd

Total exemption full accounts made up to 31 Aug 2018 filing to be posted in a few days

We'll see if it sheds light on what Mercers & other shareholders/directors are up to

Jennifer Cohn

Per ⁦@chrisinsilico⁩, “Peter Thiel’s data analytics biz Palantir...helped build the models they were working on at Cambridge Analytica.”

(Palantir’s analytics are used by ICE. Cambridge Analytica came up w/ Trump’s “Build that wall” slogan.) 1/

2/ “It was in those early days of 2014, Wylie says, that he and Bannon began testing slogans like “drain the swamp” & “the deep state” & “build the wall,” & found a surprising number of Americans who responded strongly to them. All they needed was a candidate to parrot them.”


3/ The quote in post 2 came from this @suehalpernVT piece in the New Yorker:

4/ So it seems that Trump was Cambridge Analytica’s and Bannon’s “parrot.”

5/ Meanwhile, “Palantir Said It Had Nothing to Do With ICE Deportations. New Documents Seem to Tell a Different Story.”


Building the wall is not to stop immigrants, it's to embody separation. If you can embody "us vs them", you have won that culture war. It's just a concept, it doesn't have to be built. - @chrisinsilico at the @frontlineclub

7/ Thread.

... they tested lots of images of walls, people scaling walls. Considered German experience with the Berlin Wall and what worked psychologically and in culture change... “building the wall is not to stop immigrants - most come on a plane - it’s to embody separation”...

8/ Thread.

... initially they’d just felt they had unlimited money to research what they liked... but then they started to see what the research was being used for... and who it was helping. He’d be in a room hearing how evangelical Christians could use CA to oppress gay rights...

Jennifer Cohn

... so the mission was to get America feeling more separated. You just had to build the wall in peoples heads, you don’t need to actually build it. It becomes enduring to create psychological difference...
Bannon very good at using exclusion and identity politics like this...

...CA is more of a concept rather than a company, it’s really the london office of SCL elections. Most staff are paid by SCL. CA is just branding so it wasn’t seen that a military contractor was getting involved in elections...

Trump is Steve Bannon’s parrot. Bannon tested all of Trump’s hateful rally cries in 2014 and just needed a candidate to parrot them. See thread. ... animals-i/ … 11/

“Parscale Digital, a San Antonio-based digital marketing firm best known for its namesake and former owner Brad Parscale, President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign chairman, is now being run by a former executive at Cambridge Analytica.”

Always thought Trump was Bannon’s puppet. Sarah Palin first. Watch PBS Congressional testimony of Chris Wylie? Eye opening. The wall & deep state practiced on segments of pop w/racial bias & paranoia. When I hear deep state & trump supporters,just shake my head. Gross way to win.

Here We Go Again...

Which brings me back to the question I keep asking:

Where did ALL that state level voter data end up after Trump/Kobach voter fraud scam was over?

Who is accessing it as we speak?

What are they using it for?

Who has had their paws on it since 2017?

Foreign and/or domestic? ... 0812648449
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby Grizzly » Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:51 am

hxxps:// ... oz/9oyx6vn
The Great Hack
IMDb 6.7 113 min
The Cambridge Analytica scandal is examined through the roles of several affected persons.

Jamie Bartlett, Steve Bannon, Carole Cadwalladr, David Carroll
Karim Amer,Jehane Noujaim
United States

9.0 / 2 times

Watch it, capture it, before it's gone...
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby Iamwhomiam » Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:52 am

I watched The Hack on Netflix yesterday morning and was disappointed. I expected to learn more. I think most RI readers will also be a bit disappointed, as nearly everything revealed in the flick has already been reported and discussed here.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby RocketMan » Sat Jul 27, 2019 10:07 am

Iamwhomiam » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:52 am wrote:I watched The Hack on Netflix yesterday morning and was disappointed. I expected to learn more. I think most RI readers will also be a bit disappointed, as nearly everything revealed in the flick has already been reported and discussed here.

Thanks for linking that Grizzly! I watched it, but it was quite anodyne, as I expected. Very centrist, very individual oriented, with the requisite redemption arcs and villains.

What I got to thinking was, in the midst of all that wonky and exciting detail about technology and THREATS TO DEMOCRACY (which is always presumed to be fundamentally still intact, but under threat due to some dangerous but basically not permanent factors), what role the third way/Bill Clinton/Tony Blair brand of focus group based retail politics played in the (supposed) effectiveness of such micro manipulation.

After all the ideology and real class interests are wiped out from political conversation and debate, all that is left is crude appeals to identity and tribalism, and short term interest. And Western populations have been indoctrinated to see politics this way for decades now, since the early 90s. So perhaps it's not just a question of new, threatening technology used for nefarious ends, but a logical progression that derives from the general "end of history" amorality and surreptitious neo-liberal propaganda that denies its own status as an ideology.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Jul 27, 2019 10:30 am


Facebook Misled Journalists About How Bad the Cambridge Analytica Scandal Was

By David Uberti Jul 25, 2019
Facebook repeatedly lied to journalists about the severity of the Cambridge Analytica scandal as part of an alleged coverup of a privacy breach that gave up to 87 million users’ personal data to the Trump-linked political firm.

Company officials allegedly pointed reporters to false statements published by Cambridge Analytica itself. They feigned a lack of awareness of how the firm improperly harvested tens of millions of users’ data. And they publicly said that an internal inquiry into the data breach had found no wrongdoing when it had.

Securities and Exchange Commission officials leveled the accusations in a complaint detailing how Facebook misled investors about the scope of Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of user data. But the feds’ claims that the company repeatedly lied to the public as well make its latest apology tour even more awkward.

Carole Cadwalladr, an investigative reporter for The Guardian and Observer, said on Twitter Thursday that the SEC complaint “proves Facebook’s press team lied to me in February 2017.”

A year later, as she was preparing to publish one of the exposes that blew the whole scandal open, Facebook went a step further and threatened to sue.

“The odds against this story ever coming out are vanishingly high,” Cadwalladr added.

READ: Cambridge Analytica whistleblower says #deleteFacebook is not the answer

The SEC released the complaint Wednesday as part of a $100 million settlement with Facebook in which the company admitted no wrongdoing. The report details how the tech giant did everything in its power to avoid public scrutiny.

Facebook officials told The Guardian in Dec. 2015 that they were investigating whether Cambridge Analytica was improperly harvesting users’ personal information for political campaigns, including that of Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-Texas). The company’s inquiry confirmed that the firm had violated Facebook’s privacy rules, according to the SEC.

When journalists began circling back the following November, though, Facebook’s PR team allegedly referred them to information that was false.

“For example, beginning in February 2017, the communications group pointed reporters to Cambridge’s public statement that it ‘does not use data from Facebook’ and ‘does not obtain data from Facebook profiles or Facebook likes,’” the SEC report alleges. “This was misleading because it suggested that Facebook was unaware that Cambridge had improperly obtained Facebook user data.”

The following month, SEC officials continue, the tech giant’s communications shop told at least two outlets that “[o]ur investigation to date has not uncovered anything that suggests wrongdoing.” The Intercept published the statement in its coverage of the scandal.

“This was misleading because Facebook had, in fact, determined that the researcher’s transfer of user data to Cambridge violated the company’s Platform Policy,” the SEC complaint says. “The quote served to reinforce the misleading impression in Facebook’s periodic filings that the company was not aware of any material developer misuse of user data.”

Facebook, for its part, claims it was all a big misunderstanding. “The SEC’s complaint does not accuse Facebook or any of our directors, officers or employees of intentional wrongdoing,” Spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement to VICE News. She declined to comment further on what exactly that means.

The company is now trying to untangle itself from cascading regulatory challenges by Washington. The SEC settlement made public Wednesday was separate from a $5 billion fine imposed by the Federal Trade Commission. The Justice Department has since announced a broader antitrust review of the largest tech firms. ... candal-was

‘The Great Hack’: Cambridge Analytica is just the tip of the iceberg

By Joe Westby, AI and Big Data Researcher, Amnesty Tech
24 July 2019, 13:05 UTC
It was the scandal which finally exposed the dark side of the big data economy underpinning the internet. The inside story of how one company, Cambridge Analytica, misused intimate personal Facebook data to micro-target and manipulate swing voters in the US election, is compellingly told in “The Great Hack”, a new documentary out today.

One of the most urgent and uncomfortable questions raised in The Great Hack is: to what extent are we susceptible to such behavioural manipulation?
Joe Westby
But as the former CEO of the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica tells the film-makers, this is “not just about one company”. The film goes further to open our eyes to the way our lives are constantly monitored - and controlled - through digital technology. And it goes to the heart of how far the entire business model of some Big Tech companies may be deeply threatening our human rights.

In the online and digital world, everything you do leaves a trace of “data exhaust” – a record of everything, from what time you put petrol in your car, to what websites you visited. When combined, even seemingly innocuous data points can reveal a LOT about a person.

Cambridge Analytica bragged that it had up to 5000 data points on every US voter. By applying “psychographic” analytics to its dataset, it claimed to be able to determine people’s personality type and then individually micro-target messages to influence their behaviour. The most important source of the data was Facebook. Via a third-party app, Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained data from up to 87 million Facebook profiles – including status updates, likes and even private messages.

But the incident was not an aberration: it was an inevitable consequence of a system founded on harvesting and monetising our information - the business model that academic Shoshana Zuboff dubs “surveillance capitalism”. The model’s fundamental characteristics are: aggregating vast amounts of data on people, using it to infer incredibly detailed profiles on their lives and behaviour, and monetising it by selling these predictions to others such as advertisers. Cambridge Analytica simply deployed the same basic model to target voters rather than consumers.

This model has become core to the data economy, and underpins a complex ecosystem of tech companies, data brokers, advertisers and beyond. But it is the model’s pioneers Google and Facebook that have unparalleled access to tracking and monetising our lives, by controlling the primary gateways – outside China – to the online world (between them Google Search, Chrome, Android, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp).

Facebook and Google have amassed data vaults with an unprecedented volume of information on human beings. This goes far beyond the data that you choose to share on their platforms to include the vast amounts of data tracked as you engage with the digital world.
Joe Westby
Facebook and Google of course have long affirmed their commitment to respecting human rights. But increasingly, we are being forced to ask whether the internet’s surveillance model itself inherently conflicts with our human rights.

Facebook and Google have amassed data vaults with an unprecedented volume of information on human beings. This goes far beyond the data that you choose to share on their platforms to include the vast amounts of data tracked as you engage with the digital world. Mass corporate surveillance on such a scale threatens the very essence of the right to privacy. Indeed, in 2010, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously admitted that social networking had already changed privacy as a “social norm”.

But harvesting the data is only the first part of the story. The next step is using sophisticated analytics powered by machine learning to profile people – and thereby influence their behaviour. In the furore over Cambridge Analytica, Facebook’s own profiling practices largely escaped scrutiny. The company has explored personality profiling, how to manipulate emotions, and target people based on psychological vulnerabilities such as when they felt “worthless” or “insecure”. Google developed a tool to target ads so precisely that they can sway people’s beliefs and change behaviour through “social engineering” – while initially developed to counter Islamic extremism, the tool is publicly available for anyone to (mis)use.

One of the most urgent and uncomfortable questions raised in The Great Hack is: to what extent are we susceptible to such behavioural manipulation? Ultimately, if these capabilities are as powerful as the companies and their customers claim, they pose a real threat to our ability to make our own autonomous decisions or even our right to opinion, undermining the fundamental value of dignity that underpin all human rights. Advertising and propaganda aren’t new, but there is no precedent for targeting individuals in such intimate depth, and at the scale of whole populations.

The push to grab users’ attention and to keep them on platforms can also encourage the current toxic trend towards the politics of demonization.
Joe Westby
The model may also be helping to fuel discrimination. Companies – and governments – could easily abuse data analytics to target people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or other protected characteristics. The push to grab users’ attention and to keep them on platforms can also encourage the current toxic trend towards the politics of demonization. People are more likely to click on sensationalist or incendiary material, meaning platforms systematically privilege conspiracy theories, misogyny, and racism.

What is to be done? The data-driven business model presents a systemic and structural issue that will not be easy to address and requires a mix of political and regulatory solutions. Stronger data protection is certainly part of the answer: properly enforcing Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, which has international reach, and using it as a model in other countries, would mitigate the extent of data-mining and profiling.

More radical calls to break up the Big Tech companies have now become commonplace, and the industry is already being examined by competition authorities in various jurisdictions. A recent decision by Germany’s Federal Cartel Office to limit data sharing and aggregation between Facebook and WhatsApp is an example of a precise measure to counter the concentration of power towards the big players.

Whatever regulatory tools are deployed, it is vital that they are grounded in an analysis of the human rights risks posed by the model. Human rights provide the only international, legally binding framework that can capture the multi-faceted ways in which the business model is impacting our lives and what it means to be human – and hold the companies to account.

What is clear is that current efforts are not tackling the root causes of the problem. Two weeks ago, US regulators approved a record $5bn settlement against Facebook over Cambridge Analytica. But after news of the fine broke, Facebook’s share price went UP.

The lesson: the company and its investors would be happy for this to remain an isolated incident. It will pay some relatively nominal fines - $5bn is a drop in the ocean for a company that makes $22bn in pure profit a year – and make a few improvements to their privacy protections, but then go back to business as usual.

We cannot let this happen. It is high time to confront the human rights impacts of “surveillance capitalism” itself. ... analytica/
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby Grizzly » Sat Jul 27, 2019 4:06 pm

^^^ da fuck?!
Yes 'The Great Hack' was a great disappointment. But, Merican's need it dumbed down for em, I guess... meanwhile (don't shoot the messenger) but...

Yes it's Project Veritas, but you can think for yourself, take what you like, leave the rest... I'm reminded that Timothy Leary sd, the rightwing are half right FOR THE WRONG REASON'S.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby DrEvil » Sat Jul 27, 2019 5:04 pm

^^Having an expose on political bias coming from Project Veritas is fucking hilarious. I thought everyone knew they were worthless, lying sacks of shit by now. It doesn't matter what it looks like the google dude is saying, it's almost certainly cut and edited to remove important context or to twist his words. It's deepfakes minus the AI part.
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