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Cambridge Analytica

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Xepheria, Mar 20, 2018.

  1. Xepheria

    Xepheria The Benefactor

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    Channel 4 has just put out the first in a series of documentaries on the UK political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, and what's revealed is pretty damn shocking. Since this pertains to numerous countries around the world, I thought a separate discussion thread on what has, and what will be revealed in the coming days might be useful.



    Seems like an emergency court order is being sought to raid CA's headquarters before they can manage any kind of comprehensive data deletion short of physical destruction - a 24 to 48 hour window.

    The documentary on CA's influence over the 2016 US election comes out tomorrow.

    This is big.
     
  2. Silens Cursor

    Silens Cursor The Silencer DLP Supporter

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    It's also not really news - I'm not going to link it because folks know the commentator as pretty damn partisan, but Keith Olbermann was sketching the connection to Cambridge Analytica and connecting the dots nearly a year back, and most of these stories stay pretty high above the Mercer connection to the current administration (although I'm truly interested if any of the data connections link back to Russia at all in terms of targeting...)

    In other words, we could probably merge this with existing Trump admin thread, given that this'll linger most there.
     
  3. Xepheria

    Xepheria The Benefactor

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    The US election might be the most notable, but there are quite literally hundereds of other elections all around the world that they've had their grubby little fingers all over. I wouldn't be surprised if they played a part in the upsurge of far-right politics in various European countries recently, and I know for a fact that the UK government is currently running an investigation into their influence at the moment.

    Started this thread explicitly because it's a global topic, and not limited solely to the US (and would probably be buried under the sheer weight of Trump stupidity in Trumperium).
     
  4. unorfind

    unorfind Third Year

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    Last edited: Mar 20, 2018
  5. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    The funny thing is that I don't see how ... what they did isn't exactly what facebook was intended for. Where is the "breach"? Like ... they grabbed userdata, as much as they could, as much as the user privacy-settings allowed them to. They then possibly combined that with other data, and got highly valuable datasets useful for micro-targeting, that is, personalised, tailor-made ads. What does it matter whether those are political or commercial ads, or whether it's facebook itself or a third party, or even whether it's Russia or your grandma putting them up?

    That's why facebook is for free, lol. You're paying with that exact data. And everyone can buy it. How is this not -- and always has been -- perfectly obvious?
     
  6. unorfind

    unorfind Third Year

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  7. Nevermind

    Nevermind Seventh Year

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    I can’t quite bring myself to be as surprised about most of this as I would like to be. As a matter of fact, we talked about this exact issue in a seminar last month. The consensus was that, to a significant degree and without wanting to sound overly sardonic, Facebook usership appears to be made up of ignorant fools that don‘t particularly care about anything like this issue unless it happens to uncomfortably impact the online reality they have constructed for themselves, and the faux sense of security that comes with it.

    And the Cambridge Analytica affair (I hesitate to call it a scandal, for the exact reason @Sesc laid out above) is just that: a circumstance that threatens to remind people that their online identities are not quite as safe, and their defences to outside influence not quite as impenetrable as they like to think. And so they will be briefly outraged, before returning to liking, posting and sharing mostly ill-conceived political commentary in the comment sections of the sites that happen to cater to their political persuasion.
     
  8. Solfege

    Solfege Death Eater DLP Supporter

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    I'm befuddled and disgusted by the current media focus on Facebook. As others have said here, anyone who pays attention knew the Graph API was Facebook's business model. And for a while they had pretty liberal access policy. If there's an issue here, it's that CA accessed that data improperly through an approved academic researcher. But as I said, pretty liberal access policy in an evolving field with deep black markets for data.

    Additionally, whether data-mining, and matching of psychographic profiles with voter files to direct their digital campaign and spread fake news, actually nontrivially affected the electoral outcome is still in contention. Certainly what CA and their associates did were in bad taste, in 2016 and with Brexit, but Obama's campaign mined 5x the amount in '12 --- though they were upfront with opt-in disclosures and sought to transfer their insights instead to on-the-ground operations. The media is inconsistent here, with some articles focusing solely on the impropriety of data acquisition while others throw Obama's campaign into the mix to resurrect Big Brother.

    Now perhaps there is a regulatory argument to be made for locking down data sharing protocols, but I don't doubt some of this bandwagoning is payback on a digital advertising gatekeeper that's not been very generous to them.

    The real Cambridge Analytica scandal, the one the media's been ignoring, are the disclosures from Alexander Nix of CA's extralegal activities in third world elections --- and most probably real-world (non-FB) borderline activities in the US too. The fact that such a company, even one led by an Old Etonian, and its associates are entrusted to be major digital contractors for the UK/US defense and state ministries (tangentially to Palantir), when they behave in ways that clearly disqualify them by First World standards, is the real travesty.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2018
  9. Invictus

    Invictus Totally Sirius

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    Facebook is finally facing the Microsoft blacklash of having too much power, minimal oversight and an agressive policy. Strict regulation and curtailing of it's expansions had a long time coming. Monopolies are never good and won't forget it's making it's money on making your personal life and data something to be sold all over the world. Hopefully Google, YouTube and other such companies are the next.
     
  10. Philemon

    Philemon Second Year

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    I think for most people we know it will not be obvious. Beyond even an inability to understand the tech, most of the public in many countries are not capable of understanding their position. Crowd mentality. Plus, especially in the USA, there has been the gradual cultural movement of ceding autonomy over to advertisers or whatever centre of power happens to be dominating the day...All of us have fallen for some con or another, or have been mis-informed. I would not get too superior in attitude because no one of us can anticipate everything.

    I think underneath it all is the anxiety that this sort of mass-exploitation of user-information is immoral. Which, frankly, it is.
     
  11. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    @Sesc under EU data protection law (and accordingly UK data protection law), when you consent to share your data, you consent for it to be collected and preserved for a specific purpose. It is illegal for a data controller to then use that data for a different purpose than that it was collected for. The potential illegality involved in Cambridge Analytica is that they persuaded hundreds of thousands of people to download an app which monitored their Facebook accounts in the name of academic research, and that data was then re-purposed for commercial and political ends. If proven, it would indeed result in a significant fine.

    They're just lucky that this happened before 25 May when GDPR comes into force. Under the new rules the fine they would be liable to pay is significantly larger - 20 million euros, or 4% of annual turnover, whichever is larger.
     
  12. Indrik

    Indrik First Year

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    Per the Guardian, the ICO sought a warrant to search the CA offices on Tuesday but a high court judge pushed back the hearing until Friday (tomorrow) for unknown reasons. Also on Tuesday, someone anonymously reported a suspicious package at the CA office building which led to it being evacuated. At the same time, crates of unknown materials were removed from that building that no one there would explain.

    Too early to speculate malfeasance here, but it is rather coincidental.
     
  13. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I'd guess, and its nothing more than that, that perhaps CA was involved in something that UK Gov would find embarrassing. Whether an election here, Brexit, or something else. And evidence of that is what was removed. Whether they'd have taken the chance to remove evidence of other stuff at the same time...thats another question entirely.
     
  14. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    @Taure: Yeah, I read that re: our new data protection law, which is a fairly important step. And if facebook is to be believed, then company policy does forbid this particular way of sharing data -- from the scientific API to some third party -- as well (even if no one cared about checking this ever and there could be many more CAs). It's just -- I don't think whether this is strictly illegal, maybe illegal, or not illegal should be the point in discussing this. Even if it factually turned out to be illegal because of some technical detail, it'd still be in the spirit of facebook -- using tons of user data for targeted advertising. Kicking up a fuss because it's technically illegal but other than that, you're happy to give away your data all day long strikes me as rather silly.

    @Philemon: If you're the type to argue that most people are dumb as rocks, then sure, I guess. Because if not, there's a decade worth of books, papers, articles, blog posts and whatever else out there, on big data in general and facebook in particular, and even without it, a reasonably intelligent human being should be able question how a "for free" website makes billions in profit.

    It's fine if people don't care if a company knows them better they do (or well, it's not, because it reminds me of staple sci-fi dystopias; but that's beside the point). But then you waive your right to be outraged while simultaneously expecting me to take you seriously. That's all.
     
  15. Arthellion

    Arthellion Minister of Magic

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    So Zuckerberg testimonies started yesterday.

    Here is a clip for how out of touch our congressmen and women are with this technology.

     
  16. Agayek

    Agayek Heir

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    I'm not sure why anyone's surprised by that. It's not like anyone with a parent or grandparent these days doesn't deal with exactly that sort of thing regularly.

    It'd be nice if they'd bother to bone up a little so they can at least pretend to know what they're asking questions about, but I lost faith in the competency of Congress long ago, so it really doesn't surprise me that they didn't.
     
  17. Aekiel

    Aekiel Angle of Mispeling Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Personally I wonder why Congress/Parliament do that at all. They're not investigators; they're politicians. Why on Earth would they be better suited to looking into this than the police?
     
  18. Imariel

    Imariel Death Eater DLP Supporter

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    They do it because they're politicians. Free media attention on a current issue.
     
  19. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    An alternative name for them is "lawmakers". So while there is an element of show to it, you'd hope at least a handful of them have a genuine desire to educate themselves to make informed decisions. So in a sense, they are investigators, and with an unlimited scope, too -- they have to be interested in all facets of life, because they deal with all facets of life.

    Anyway, the idea isn't for this to replace law enforcement investigations, so at least it's nothing lost. Whether something's gained might be more dubious, but every now and then, parlamentary inquiries and investigations do have revealed something of note.