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Opinion: Former Cambridge Analytica employee on the benefits of using voter data in a political campaign

The researcher, who, after the scandal with Facebook, founded a similar company, wants so to prevent people from misleading.

Mark Turnbull (left) Snapshot of 4 News channel

Mark Turnbull, former managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, in the column for The Independent, in the UK, advocated the use of personal data in election campaigns. It is this company that got into the center of a scandal with information leakage bypassing Facebook’s rules.

Turnbull worked at Cambridge Analytica for two years and left in 2018. Then he and several former colleagues founded Auspex International, which focuses on the countries of the Middle East and Africa – it also collects and analyzes data for political purposes. Turnbull’s material came out on the eve of elections to the European Parliament.

Data is the cornerstone. They can be used to measure the collective interest that underlies the European dream and fuels a sense of belonging across borders.

Mark Turnbull former managing director of Cambridge Analytica

According to Turnbull, the effectiveness of a particular campaign depends on how the politician reveals topics that are significant to the voter. According to his example, the views on the advantages and disadvantages of EU membership may differ from residents of each European city and region — and this data needs to be extracted and analyzed.

Turnbull called the “previously inconceivable” the scale of information gathering made possible by social networks. He concluded that current tools allow “to aim [at users] with greater accuracy than before, and also to analyze how certain messages resonate with different audiences.

This may scare someone, but political communication is no different now from what it was after the media appeared. In the 20th century, politicians bought mailing lists for flyers or advertising booklets to deliver specific messages in specific areas.

Now, the “leaflets” simply became digital and appear not in our mailboxes, but in news feeds. The old approach with a new technology – all this allows influencing voters like never before, but also gives [politicians] the opportunity to do something very useful.
Mark Turnbullbformer managing director of Cambridge Analytica

Turnbull recalled that the increase in the level of support for populist politicians is associated with “echo cameras” in social networks – digital isolation or a contextual trap, through which an alternative opinion does not pass, largely due to algorithms and target. According to the researcher, fake news distributors will not disappear by themselves, but open user data can prevent them from being misled.

In March 2018, it became known that Cambridge Analytica, bypassing Facebook’s rules, used data from millions of users, including for political purposes. Three days later, Mark Zuckerberg admitted the mistake and apologized to the audience, but the consequences of the scandal haunted the social network all year.

Cambridge Analytica used data for targeted advertising in the US presidential election . For example, residents of areas where Trump supported the majority, saw a call to go to the polls, and Americans from areas where the Republican lost to Clinton – a banner with a story about his famous supporters.


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