Just Say No

This story got buried under the news of Andrew McCabe’s firing on Friday, but it’s important if we want to elect people who can bring about responsible government. That starts now, as we move toward November’s elections.

You know those cute little quizzes that are supposed to tell you something about who you are? Which movie star are you? Are you a cat or a dog person? What is your color? So much fun to compare with what you think of yourself and with your friends’ results. In fact, you could share on Facebook and urge your friends to see what their favorite color was. Those quizzes asked you to share most of your Facebook data before you could play.

You may have been contributing data to Cambridge Analytica’s work to help elect Donald Trump.

Facebook posted a notice yesterday that they were suspending Cambridge Analytica and their parent firm, Strategic Communications Limited. An app developer at the University of Cambridge, Aleksandr Kogan, was passing information from Facebook to Cambridge Analytica, in violation of his agreement with Facebook. The app was “thisisyourdigitallife,” which he claimed to be based on psychology research. When Facebook learned of this violation, they removed the app and asked all parties to delete the data they had received.

Guess what? They didn’t.

The New York Times and the Observer of London did a joint investigation of how Cambridge Analytica got the data and what they did with it. Christopher Wylie, who helped found the firm and worked there until 2014, is now blowing the whistle on them.

Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge and worked there until late 2014, said of its leaders: “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.”

“They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”

Cambridge Analytica now has data from 50 million Facebook users.

The Robert Mueller team and British Parliament and regulators are looking into Cambridge Analytica’s role in the US presidential and “Brexit” elections. In the first, they were working for Donald Trump, and in the second, for “Leave.”

Kogan’s app was central to this; he was working for Cambridge Analytica.

We still don’t know exactly how they used the data in the campaigns, and they’re not saying.

There’s a lot more at the New York Times and the Guardian. Read those stories and, for goodness sake, DON’T EVER USE AN APP THAT ASKS FOR ACCESS TO ALL YOUR DATA! Or even big parts of it.


Cross-posted to Balloon Juice.


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