Sunday, March 18, 2018

The gay Canadian whistleblower who plotted the delivery of 50 million Facebook users' profiles to the Trump campaign — without their knowledge

This is the most important story yet published about the 2016 Election.
     It took Manchester, England's Guardian newspaper (and its sister paper, The Observer) a year to research, busting deception and stonewalling by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.
     Below you will hear a Guardian reporter talk about the legal threats to which her newspaper has been subjected, and, in a separate video, the gay Canadian who assembled the data used by Steve Bannon/Cambridge Analytica/Brad Parscale campaign operation for Donald Trump that exploited data from a Facebook personality quiz to extract profiles from the takers of the quiz — as well as many, many more of their facebook friends who didn't use the app.
     Below the videos is a link to the Guardian's exhaustive story.
     If the Pulitzer Prize Committee has a rule against giving awards to foreign newspapers, it should suspend that rule it in the wake of the Guardian's astonishing reportage of this superlatively important and shocking story.
     The entire, exhaustive Guardian story is here, and below the videos are some provocative excerpts to entice you to read it.

How Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to obtain profiles of 270,000 users for the Trump Campaign — and 50 million of their facebook friends

How an American is using British law to sue Cambridge Analytica for obtaining his Facebook profile information for a Ted Cruz campaign

At 24, he came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, ...and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trump’s election campaign.
Or, as Wylie describes it, he was the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindfuck tool”.

Wylie ...came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.
“We ‘broke’ Facebook,” he says.

... in autumn 2013, Wylie met Steve Bannon... “Interesting. Really interested in ideas. He’s the only straight man I’ve ever talked to about intersectional feminist theory. He saw its relevance straightaway to the oppressions that conservative, young white men feel.” ...Politics was like fashion, he told Bannon. “[Bannon] got it immediately.

When I ask how Bannon even found SCL, Wylie tells me ... how Mark Block, a veteran Republican strategist, happened to sit next to a cyberwarfare expert for the US air force on a plane. “And the cyberwarfare guy is like, ‘Oh, you should meet SCL. They do cyberwarfare for elections.’”

It was Bannon who took this idea to ...Robert Mercer – the co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, ...and his daughter Rebekah. Nix and Wylie flew to New York to meet the Mercers in Rebekah’s Manhattan apartment.
“She loved me. She was like, ‘Oh we need more of your type on our side!’”
Your type? “The gays. She loved the gays. So did Steve [Bannon]. He saw us as early adopters. He figured, if you can get the gays on board, everyone else will follow. It’s why he was so into the whole Milo [Yiannopoulos] thing.”

“Facebook could see it was happening,” says Wylie. “Their security protocols were triggered because Kogan’s apps were pulling this enormous amount of data, but apparently Kogan told them it was for academic use. So they were like, ‘Fine’.”

...In December 2015, the Guardian’s Harry Davies published the first report about Cambridge Analytica acquiring Facebook data and using it to support Ted Cruz in his campaign ...In August 2016... two years after the breach took place, Facebook’s lawyers wrote to Wylie, who left Cambridge Analytica in 2014, and told him the data had been illicitly obtained and that “GSR was not authorised to share or sell it”. They said it must be deleted immediately.
“I already had. But literally all I had to do was tick a box and sign it and send it back, and that was it,” says Wylie. “Facebook made zero effort to get the data back.” There were multiple copies of it. It had been emailed in unencrypted files.

Dr Kogan – who later changed his name to Dr Spectre, but has subsequently changed it back to Dr Kogan – is still a faculty member at Cambridge University, a senior research associate.... he is also an associate professor at St Petersburg University.... he’s received grants from the Russian government to research “Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks”. 

There are other dramatic documents in Wylie’s stash, including a pitch made by Cambridge Analytica to Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil producer. ...The work, he said, would be “shared with the CEO of the business”, a former Soviet oil minister and associate of Putin, Vagit Alekperov.
“It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?”

...What [Wylie] cannot tolerate is bullying.
Is what Cambridge Analytica does akin to bullying?
“I think it’s worse than bullying,” Wylie says. “Because people don’t necessarily know it’s being done to them... And fundamentally, information warfare is not conducive to democracy.”

“Facebook has denied and denied and denied this,” Dehaye says when told of the Observer’s new evidence. “It has misled MPs and congressional investigators and it’s failed in its duties to respect the law. It has a legal obligation to inform regulators and individuals about this data breach, and it hasn’t. It’s failed time and time again to be open and transparent.”

Facebook denies that the data transfer was a breach.

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