More on Cambridge Analytica and Facebook

Australia has been included in possible targets of Cambridge Analytica being used to try to influence election outcomes.

Stuff: Cambridge Analytica CEO appears to talk about election bribes, sex workers on video

According to the video posted by Channel 4 News, Nix appears to suggest the company could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house.” He later added that he favoured Ukranian women in particular: “They are very beautiful, I find that works very well.”

The surreptitiously recorded video also appears to depict conversations involving Nix, Mark Turnbull, the managing director of Cambridge Analytica Political Global, and Alex Tayler, the chief data officer. The Channel 4 News team reportedly told the company officials they were meeting with a “fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.”

The executives repeatedly appear to brag about their behind-the-scenes efforts to influence political outcomes in Mexico, Australia and Kenya, at one point teasing that they’re beginning to work in China, too.

I doubt that any use of data analysis for outside interference could have had much effect on the New Zealand general election last year given the dramatic changes in the two months leading up to the election.

For an overview from the Independent:  Why is everyone so worried about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica?

Facebook has been engulfed in a growing scandal over the way it harvests data.

The problems began when it emerged that Cambridge Analytica, a political data company, had been using Facebook to gather information. But it is quickly broadening out – casting a light on the way data is gathered on Facebook more generally, and how it is used to sway people not only to buy things but to change how they vote and who runs the world.

What has happened?

In short, people’s data has been collected to try and understand more about them and change how they vote. That’s been the work of Cambridge Analytica, a data company that has been credited – rightly or wrongly – with helping both the Donald Trump and Brexit campaigns achieve their victories.

A whistleblower revealed that the site had been able to Hoover up 50 million user profiles by having them take a quiz on the site that gave them access to some of the data that Facebook had collected about them. That data was taken, it is claimed, to help target the kind of political ads that have received sustained scrutiny in the wake of those results – and have been given at least some of the blame (or credit) for making them happen.

This time around, though, the data was not being used for just any advertising. It was allegedly being utilised to direct messages for campaigns helped out by data firm Cambridge Analytica: Brexit and Donald Trump.

How much of a part that marketing, or Cambridge Analytica, had to do with either of those results is still a mystery, and we’ll never truly know.

Elections are complex, with many influences, but when results are close a concerted subliminal effort to swing the result could make a difference.

Doesn’t this sort of stuff happen all the time?

Yes. The Cambridge Analytica disclosures are especially newsworthy and relate to current affairs – but that kind of data-gathering is happening on a daily basis.

Many of the apparently innocent games or quizzes you’ve signed up to on the site will be doing the same sort of information-gathering: asking Facebook for your personal details and then taking them away for whatever purposes they want. And Facebook itself is doing the same, with everything you post or do on the site being fed into a set of data that is then used to serve you relevant advertising.

I’ve always been suspicious of interactive apps on Facebook and have avoided being sucked in to participate, but many people do.

What should I do?

The most important advice applies generally to the Internet: be alert and cautious about everything you do. Just about every service is trying to take your data – which shows just how valuable it is, and therefore how important it is to make sure it doesn’t get into the hands of people who want to exploit you with it.

The same caution should apply to the things you read on the internet, too, especially if you don’t know where it has come from. The Cambridge Analytica data – like any data – won’t change anything by itself, and it’s how it’s used that’s really damaging. In the case of the recent news, for instance, the data was collected to build a database of voters and attempt to sway them by showing them ads.

Just like companies trying to sway you to but their stuff. Buyer beware, voter beware.

More explanations from BBC: Cambridge Analytica: The story so far

It’s a sensational story containing allegations of sleaze, psychological manipulation and data misuse that has provoked an internationally furious response.

Tech giant Facebook and data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica are at the centre of a dispute over the harvesting and use of personal data – and whether it was used to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election or the UK Brexit referendum.

Both firms deny any wrongdoing.

But investigations are under way in the US and UK.

BBC – Cambridge Analytica: Warrant sought to inspect company

The UK’s Information Commissioner says she will seek a warrant to look at the databases and servers used by British firm Cambridge Analytica.

Ms Denham demanded access to the firm’s databases and servers after it missed her Monday deadline.

“I’m not accepting their response so therefore I’ll be applying to the court for a warrant,” she told Channel 4.

She said she wanted to understand how data was “processed or deleted by Cambridge Analytica”.

BBC – Cambridge Analytica: Facebook boss summoned over data claims

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has been called on by a parliamentary committee to give evidence about the use of personal data by Cambridge Analytica.

The consulting firm is accused of harvesting the data of 50 million Facebook users without permission and failing to delete it when told to.

Damian Collins, the chairman of the Commons inquiry into fake news, accused Facebook of “misleading” the committee.

Both companies are under scrutiny following claims by a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, who worked with Cambridge Analytica and alleges it amassed large amounts of data through a personality quiz on Facebook called This is Your Digital Life.

He claims that 270,000 people took the quiz, but the data of some 50 million users, mainly in the US, was harvested without their explicit consent via their friend networks.

Mr Wylie says that data was sold to Cambridge Analytica, which then used it to psychologically profile people and deliver pro-Trump material

In a letter to Mr Zuckerberg, Mr Collins accused Facebook of giving answers “misleading to the Committee” at a previous hearing which asked whether information had been taken without users’ consent.

He said it was “now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process”.

His intervention comes after the UK’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she would be applying to court for a warrant to search the offices of Cambridge Analytica.

From the US:


Wall Street Journal- Facebook, Other Tech Giants Under Scrutiny by Congress Over User Data

Lawmakers are pushing for an aggressive inquiry into allegations that a firm tied to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign gathered data from millions of Facebook Inc. profiles without authorization, calling for hearings and possible additional regulation of digital advertising.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers are calling for the top executives of tech companies—including Facebook, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc.—to appear before Congress to explain how they protect user data from being exploited…

A claim that Facebook helped the Obama campaign in 2012: Ex-Obama Campaign Director on Facebook: They Were On Our Side

A former Obama campaign official is claiming that Facebook knowingly allowed them to mine massive amounts of Facebook data — more than they would’ve allowed someone else to do — because they were supportive of the campaign.

In a Sunday tweet thread, Carol Davidsen, former director of integration and media analytics for Obama for America, said the 2012 campaign led Facebook to “suck out the whole social graph” and target potential voters. They would then use that data to do things like append their email lists.

Facebook has been widely exploited.

Washington Post – Facebook’s rules for accessing user data lured more than just Cambridge Analytica

Facebook last week suspended the Trump campaign’s data consultant, Cambridge Analytica, for scraping the data of potentially millions of users without their consent. But thousands of other developers, including the makers of games such as FarmVille and the dating app Tinder, as well as political consultants from President Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, also siphoned huge amounts of data about users and their friends, developing deep understandings of people’s relationships and preferences.

Cambridge Analytica — unlike other firms that access Facebook’s user data — broke Facebook’s rules by obtaining the data under the pretense of academic use. But experts familiar with Facebook’s systems and policies say that the greater problem was that the rules for accessing the social network’s information trove were so loose in the first place.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in 2007 invited outside developers to build their businesses off Facebook’s data, giving them ready access to the friend lists, “likes” and affinities that connect millions of Facebook users. Practically any engineer who could persuade a Facebook user to download an app or to sign into a website using Facebook’s popular “log-in through Facebook” feature would have been able to access not only the profile, behavior and location of that Facebook user but also that of all the user’s Facebook friends, developers said.

So even if you have avoided being baited to click, if you are on Facebook you could have been profiled and targeted.

Not surprisingly this is impacting on Facebook.

CNBC: Facebook stock drops after reports of FTC probe and UK summons of Zuckerberg in data scandal

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether the use of personal data from 50 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica violated a consent decree the tech company signed with the agency in 2011, Bloomberg reported Monday.

The probe follows a weekend of turmoil for the social media giant.

Shares of Facebook fell nearly 5 percent Tuesday, after skidding as much as 8 percent on Monday.

Still falling Tuesday (US time):


  1. Trevors_elbow

     /  March 21, 2018

    Just yawn. Why do you think Facebook offers a free service to share your life? Its all about data…always has been.

    • PDB

       /  March 21, 2018

      You mean……they didn’t put Facebook together just from the goodness of their hearts?!?

      • Trevors_elbow

         /  March 21, 2018

        Colour me cyncial 😉

        The most interesting thing in that large post by PG is the bit about FB actively helping Obama…

        Media screams sin over linkage to Brexit and Trump…. quietly states FB helps Obama then moves on…

        Its all a teacup size storm of nothingness

        • Joe Bloggs

           /  March 21, 2018

          Yup, we’re already hearing that Obama did it first. Facts be damned.

          I really hope some criminal charges come out of this CA ordeal… “look they went to jail” is a lot easier for people to understand than the intricate details of illegal data mining.

          • David

             /  March 21, 2018

            “I really hope some criminal charges come out of this CA ordeal… “look they went to jail” is a lot easier for people to understand than the intricate details of illegal data mining.”

            Well, I’d take a wager on that. I’d guess that for all the noise, the sum total of this will be almost no one had their data taken illegally.

  2. Joe Bloggs

     /  March 21, 2018

    The Financial Times is reporting that Facebook had a 2011 agreement with the FTC regarding user privacy to which they may now be violation to the tune of up to US$40K per user. Ouch! They estimate that fine could be $2 trillion.

    • PDB

       /  March 21, 2018

      Good if true though Facebook themselves is hardly a bastion of user privacy. Facebook users should be fined for stupidity as well.

      • Joe Bloggs

         /  March 21, 2018

        FB users stupid? Hmmm, that’s easy to say if you’re a cynic, but I suspect the vast majority use the site in good faith and it seems pretty clear now that “good faith” has worked only one way. Rather than stupid, perhaps naive would be a better word.

        FB, not just third party analytical services, engages in information operations all over the world, and both it and firms like CA threaten democracy.

        Sunlight is a good thing.

        • David

           /  March 21, 2018

          “FB, not just third party analytical services, engages in information operations all over the world, and both it and firms like CA threaten democracy.”

          You do realise this is the entire purpose of Facebook don’t you?

          • Joe Bloggs

             /  March 21, 2018

            Um, yes, David. I do realise that, David. That’s why I wrote what I wrote, David. Any more questions?

            • David

               /  March 21, 2018

              So does just about everyone else. So why then the great surprise when Facebook does exactly what it’s their for?

      • MaureenW

         /  March 21, 2018

        Self explanatory links, but it sure is a creepy old world we live in.

        • Joe Bloggs

           /  March 21, 2018

          Given Zuckerberg has known about the CA data theft issues for well over a year, the timing is problematic – a small serve of insider trading anyone?

    • David

       /  March 21, 2018

      Facebook getting shut down by the FTC, that will be fun to watch!

  3. Joe Bloggs

     /  March 21, 2018

    Part three: The Trump campaign

    The undercover investigation reveals how Cambridge Analytica claims it ran ‘all’ of President Trump’s digital campaign – and may have broken election law. Executives were secretly filmed saying they leave ‘no paper trail’. And, as the report went on air, the firm announced it has suspended chief executive Alexander Nix, pending a full investigation.

  4. Joe Bloggs

     /  March 21, 2018

    Kogan did not need to get Facebook data through the back door, because he could waltz in through the front door—the door Facebook built for developers. This was not a breach of Facebook’s network. But it was a breach of users’ trust, general expectations and perhaps also Facebook’s terms of service. (Indeed, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal, has posted that the firm takes the position that Kogan’s sharing the data with Cambridge Analytica did violate the site’s platform policies.)

    A helpful explanation of the laws that might give rise to legal claims against Kogan, CA, and Facebook:

  5. David

     /  March 21, 2018

    This is fun, bloke who took $4bn from Facebook, calls for deleting Facebook;

  1. More on Cambridge Analytica and Facebook — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition