social network

A massive Facebook user data leak could affect US elections. Now the social network is under pressure

What is Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica is an analytical firm that works with political parties that want to “change the behavior of the audience.” Employees study user data from social networks and their own polls, combine them with behavioral science and identify people on the Internet, to which politicians could “get through”.

The firm builds “profiles” of potential voters with the help of a large array of data, and then selects targeted advertising for them. Formally, Cambridge Analytica is based in London, but focuses on Republicans in the United States.

In 2014, the firm helped with the election campaign of Ted Cruz. The head of the company, Alexander Nix, said that the Democrats “led the technological revolution”, and the company helps the Republicans to reduce the gap.

What did they do?

Alexander Nix. Getty Images

On March 16, it turned out that in 2014 Cambridge Analytica, bypassing Facebook’s rules, received personal data from 50 million US social network users from the United States to compile “profiles.” The company bought information from Alexander Kogan, a professor at Cambridge University.

Kogan created an application for psychologists called thisisyourdigitallife: Facebook users underwent personality tests in him and received a monetary reward. In return, the professor received access to customer profiles and their friends in the social network. In total, 270 thousand people connected to the application, which helped Kogan get data of 50 million users.

The collection of such information is not prohibited by the rules of Facebook, if the owner of the application “leaves it at home.” But Kogan sold the personal data to third parties without the knowledge of users – they were obtained by Cambridge Analytica and Eunoia Technologies. The New York Times called it “the biggest leak in the history of social networks.”

In 2015, Facebook removed thisisyourdigitallife and required the professor to destroy all information about users. Kogan and company representatives said they got rid of the data, but in March 2018 the social network learned that some of the personal information was preserved.

Cambridge Analytica claims that it removed data for the first query in 2015. According to the representatives of the firm, they signed a contract with a “respected academician from a famous university” and did not know that all the information received violated the rules of the service.

How does this relate to Trump?

In 2016, Cambridge Analytica began working with Trump’s campaign headquarters. According to the media, the company used the data received from Kogan to set up advertising for users of social networks, which would persuade them to vote for the right candidate.

The Politico edition noted that Cambridge Analytica Vice President directed the development of Trump’s election campaign strategy. Personal Information 50 million Facebook users allegedly helped determine which cities to visit, what topics to raise and what to say in public speeches.

In December 2016 the German edition of Spiegel Online reported that the analytical firm had a great influence on the victory of Donald Trump, composing a psychological portrait of voters. At that time, journalists could not prove the illegal actions of Cambridge Analytica.

Who told about this

Photos of Business Insider

On the activities of Kogan and Cambridge Analytica, The Guardian and The New York Times were interviewed by a former analyst firm analyst Christopher Wylie, who helped with the collection and processing of data. According to him, a special program was created for the Trump campaign, which, through information from Facebook and advertising, influenced the choice of voters.

We used Facebook to collect information about millions of users. We built “profiles”, learned about people and aimed at their “internal demons”. This is the principle on which the company was built.

Christopher Wylie
former Cambridge Analytica employee

Wylie left the company in 2014. He provided evidence to the media that his former employers had acquired data from 50 million social network users. “For them it’s a war, not an election,” Wylie said. On March 18 and 19, he reported that his accounts on Facebook and Instagram had been blocked. Lawyers Facebook explained that they did this, because Wylie also used data from Kogan.

What is Facebook’s fault?

Facebook also blocked the accounts of Alexander Kogan and Cambridge Analytica in social networks. At the same time, the company stressed : a professor at Cambridge University received user data according to the rules, because they had previously been requested access to account information, husky and friends list. Because of this, Facebook does not consider what happened to be a “data leak”.

However, experts on cyber security consider it differently. They criticized the social network for their inability to protect the personal information of their users. According to The Washington Post, Facebook may be fined by the US Federal Trade Commission. As Edward Snowden is sure, the company can also trade data itself.

Facebook makes their money by exploiting and selling intimate details about the private lives of millions, far beyond the scant details you voluntarily post. They are not victims. They are accomplices. 

How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

Cambridge Analytica harvested personal information from a huge swath of the electorate to develop techniques that were later used in the Trump campaign.

Facebook breach: This is a major breach that must be investigated. It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves. I’ve called for more transparency & accountability for online political ads. They say “trust us.” Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary.

[Senator from Minnesota] “Leakage of Facebook: this is a massive leak that needs to be investigated. It is clear that platforms can not control themselves. I call for greater transparency and responsibility for political advertising on the Internet. They say “trust us.” Mark Zuckerberg must testify before the Senate’s court ”

On March 18, Massachusetts Attorney General Mara Helei announced an investigation into Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. March 19 edition of The Financial Times reported that Facebook shares have fallen by 6% since the beginning of the scandal.

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Is there a “Russian trace” in history?

It is not known whether the data of 50 million Facebook users transmitted to “Russian hackers” who were accused of interfering in the presidential elections in the United States. In September 2017, Facebook found that political ads from Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton spread from Russian accounts.

However, one of the main characters in the story – Alexander Kogan – lived in Moscow for seven years, and then moved with his family to the United States. In addition to teaching in Cambridge, he held a post at St. Petersburg State University and, according to The Guardian, received some government grants. And in 2014 Cambridge Analytica was negotiating for cooperation with Lukoil.

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