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Facebook's secret banhammer manual revealed

Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
Facebook under fire after Canadian whistle-blower Chris Wylie reveals abuse of data of tens of millions of users


Facebook is under fire after bombshell media reports detailed how political consultants used personal data from 50 million users in political campaigns during the 2016 U.S. election and Brexit referendums. Christopher Wylie, the 28-year-old Canadian whistleblower, says he worked with Steve Bannon, a top aide for U.S. President Donald Trump, to mine personal data to help the campaign. The response to the revelations has been swift on both sides of the Atlantic. A Tory lawmaker accused Facebook for misleading officials over the risk of a data leak and Democratic senators called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress. Facebook now says the political consultants that accessed this data should never have had it but learned of the problems in 2015. At the time it did not apologize or disclose the matters publicly. On Friday, it suspended Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL Group from its platform.
 
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Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
What is Cambridge Analytica, and what did it do? A guide to the Facebook scandal and its political fallout

Cambridge Analytica: The basics
What the company does:Cambridge Analytica is a political data analytics firm, a spinoff of the British-based SCL Group. Both firms specialize in mining large amounts of consumer data for behavioural trends that companies and political organizations can use for targeted marketing.

Why we’re talking about it now:Cambridge Analytica harvested 50 million people’s Facebook data without authorization in 2014, and then went on to play influential roles in 2016’s U.S. election and Brexit referendum in the U.K., according to reports last week in The New York Times and Britain’s Observer, a sister paper to the Guardian newspaper. Canadian whistle-blower Chris Wylie, who helped found Cambridge Analytica, described their algorithm as taking “fake news to the next level.” Whether the data actually affected election results is unclear, but further news reports showed how Cambridge Analytica made lofty promises to clients about their data’s ability to influence politics. An undercover investigation by Britain’s Channel 4 appeared to show Cambridge Analytica executives suggesting they could use bribes to help clients achieve their ends, or hire sex workers to put political opponents in compromising positions.

How they got the data: Mr. Wylie and Cambridge Analytica formed a partnership in 2013 with Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University academic. Dr. Kogan developed a Facebook app for personality testing, dubbed “thisisyourdigitallife,” which some 270,000 people downloaded and used. But the app’s licensing agreement required users to give over personal information not only from their own Facebook profiles, but from those of Facebook friends with low privacy settings. Here’s how Mr. Wylie described it to the Observer:

We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.

Was that legal? Facebook’s rules at the time allowed for research techniques like Mr. Kogan’s app, but didn’t allow data collected by such methods to be passed along to third parties. Facebook says it learned in 2015 that the collected personal data was still out there, but instead of disclosing that, Facebook discreetly asked the parties to destroy the data, and believed them when they said they had done so. Cambridge Analytica, for its part, said it never collected the Facebook data itself, blaming Dr. Kogan for gathering the data improperly. Cambridge Analytica says it deleted the data two years ago.

Who they were working with: In 2013, SCL was forging ties with U.S. hedge-fund tycoon Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah. This also brought them into a relationship with Steve Bannon, then a political adviser to the Mercers. Mr. Bannon and the Mercers were instrumental in bringing Donald Trump to the presidency, the former as his campaign adviser and the latter as major donors. Cambridge Analytica would end up doing political work during the 2016 U.S. election, both for Senator Ted Cruz’s primary campaign and Mr. Trump’s general election campaign.
The whistleblower
Mr. Wylie, the 28-year-old British Columbian who helped found Cambridge Analytica, described himself to the Times and Observer as an unlikely accomplice to the conservative schemes of Mr. Bannon and the Mercers. A gay vegan of liberal persuasion, he got interested in data’s potential to explain or predict elections when he was a student in London who worked for the Liberal Democrat party, according to the Observer’s profile of him. A party connection introduced Mr. Wylie to SCL, whose founder, Alexander Nix, gave him total freedom to pursue his ideas. But Mr. Wylie’s relationship with his employers soured as they got deeper into U.S. conservative politics: “Rules don’t matter for them,” he told the Times. “For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair. They want to fight a culture war in America.”

Mr. Wylie’s interest in politics and fighting injustice began at a young age, The Globe and Mail’s Patrick White reports. Growing up in Victoria, the six-year-old Mr. Wylie was attacked at elementary school by a fellow student, leading to a court battle and a settlement of $290,000. The young Mr. Wylie got involved in Victoria city hall, became a Liberal Party supporter and, in 2008, he went to work for a Liberal MP who knew his parents, Keith Martin. At 17, he worked for the federal Liberals under then-leader Stéphane Dion. A Liberal staffer told The Globe that he pressed the party to microtarget voters using data, but like the Liberal Democrats, they ignored him.

The big political questions
Did Cambridge Analytica influence the U.S. election? That’s unclear. Mr. Wylie has said he’s unsure how much the Trump campaign relied on Cambridge Analytica’s data. On Saturday, Mr. Trump’s campaign denied using the firm’s data, saying it relied on the Republican National Committee‘s information instead.

Did it influence the Brexit referendum in 2016? Again, unclear, though the British government is trying to figure that out. Parliament is in the midst of an inquiry into how political parties, data companies and social media platforms use personal information to target voters during political campaigns. Mr. Nix, the SCL founder, testified before Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Feb. 27, denying that the company used Facebook data:

We do not work with Facebook data, and we do not have Facebook data. We do use Facebook as a platform to advertise, as do all brands and most agencies, or all agencies, I should say.

After the Times and Observer reports, chairman Damian Collins blamed Mr. Nix for having “deliberately misled” his committee. Mr. Collins also took aim at Facebook’s leadership: “Someone has to take responsibility for this. It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to stop hiding behind his Facebook page.”

Did it influence other elections?Cambridge Analytica executives toldan undercover Channel 4 journalist that they had worked in more than 200 elections worldwide, including Kenya, Nigeria and India.

What governments are doing
Britain: The U.K.’s Information Commissioner is investigating whether Facebook data was illegally acquired and used. “This is a complex and far reaching investigation for my office and any criminal or civil enforcement actions arising from it will be pursued vigorously,” commissioner Elizabeth Denham said Saturday. The parliamentary media committee has also summoned Mr. Zuckerberg to testify.

Canada: Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said Monday his office would contact Facebook to find out whether the personal information of Canadians was affected by the Cambridge Analytica leak. He also said his office would co-operate with the investigation by his British counterpart.

United States: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook over its use of personal data, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday.Facebook has faced new calls for regulation from Congress and was hit with questions about personal data safeguards, but it was unclear whether the Republican-controlled legislature would act.

Europe: EU lawmakers will investigate whether the Facebook users’ data was misused, Antonio Tajani, the head of European Parliament, said on Monday.

What Facebook is doing
Pre-empting the Times and Observer reports, Facebook announced Friday that it would suspend SCL and Cambridge Analytica from the platform. In a statement, vice-president Paul Grewal played down the idea that this was a privacy breach: “People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked.” Mr. Grewal also accused Dr. Kogan of having lied to Facebook and breached its privacy rules in his research activities.

On Monday, Facebook announced it had hired digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg to look into Cambridge Analytica. Stroz Friedberg’s investigators went to Cambridge Analytica’s London office Monday night, Facebook said, but they stood down at the request of the British Information Commissioner’s office, which is pursuing its own warrant in the case. Facebook also said Dr. Kogan was co-operating with the audit, but Mr. Wylie had declined to do so.

The Cambridge Analytica revelations shook investors’ confidence in Facebook, driving shares down by as much as 6.8 per cent on Monday.

What’s next for Silicon Valley?
The Cambridge Analytica affair is only the latest scandal to put social-media tech companies under pressure for their political influence, especially in the 2016 U.S. election. U.S. authorities have uncovered evidence over the past year and a half that a St. Petersburg troll factory, the Internet Research Agency, tried to meddle in the election by creating political agitation groups and fake ads to inflame political tensions through social media. Thirteen Russians have been charged in the alleged plot by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russian nationals and the Trump campaign.

The Russian meddling exposed major vulnerabilities in how Facebook’s algorithms can be exploited by foreign powers, and renewed calls for tighter regulation of the social-media giant. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it his goal for 2018 to fix these problems and prevent future abuse.

A privacy scandal is an especially big business risk for Facebook in Europe, where new European Union privacy rules take effect on May 25. Under the General Data Protection Regulation, companies can face fines of up to 4 per cent of annual turnover.

More reading: The long road to fixing Facebook

Associated Press, The Canadian Press and Reuters, with reports from The New York Times, Patrick White, Colin Freeze, Adrian Morrow and Evan Annett
 
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it his goal for 2018 to fix these problems and prevent future abuse.

Yeah, just last month, Zuckerberg was on the cover of Wired Magazine, trying to drum up support and start a charm offensive over the scrutiny both he and Facebook have faced over the last few years. Provocative cover that was looking for sympathy:

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Wonder how Wired is feeling now with this coming to light? Guess I'll find out next issue.
 

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
Chris Wylie is a whistleblower, Canadian, and a gay liberal vegan? That's Wickedken's worst nightmare right there. No wait, it's Justin Trudeau. Sorry! Sorry!
 

SneakyPete

TRIBE Member
I don't see a problem with that. $70mil is a lot for most people, but that's like 0.1% of his net worth. Any time he sells his stocks it could easily be + or - $70mil.
 
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ndrwrld

TRIBE Member
I don't see a problem with that. $70mil is a lot for most people, but that's like 0.1% of his net worth. Any time he sells his stocks it could easily be + or - $70mil.
didn't Martha Stewart go to prison for selling far less in worth of stock for the very same thing ?
 
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Mondieu

TRIBE Member

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
There's been an ongoing twitter thread over the past month about the exploits of things like the YouTube algorithms that brought about things like the rise of Alex Jones, Alt Right, Sandy Hook conspiracies etc.

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CiG

TRIBE Member
People just want attention. Especially this pink hair guy. Ofcourse your data is being used. Nothing is misused. Used as intended.

And they will do it again once people forget.

It's the people's fault for sharing it.
 

kyfe

TRIBE Member
People just want attention. Especially this pink hair guy. Ofcourse your data is being used. Nothing is misused. Used as intended.

And they will do it again once people forget.

It's the people's fault for sharing it.
You’re an idiot.
If i take my car to the shop and authorize them to do an oil change, instead they replace the entire engine and tell whicj part of doing is changing the oil. Should they be able to bill me for the engine replacement?

That’s what this is, the bending of agreement and misleading the purchaser
 
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