Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Mar 22, 2018 8:05 am

DrEvil » Thu Mar 22, 2018 3:44 am wrote:
The Guardian and Observer have been told the Israelis brought a laptop from their office in Tel Aviv and handed employees a USB stick containing what they believed were hacked personal emails.

Sources said Nix, who was suspended on Tuesday, and other senior directors told staff to search for incriminating material that could be used to damage opposition candidates, including Buhari.

“It made everyone feel really uncomfortable,” said one source. “They wanted people to load it into their email programs.”

So in other words Israeli intelligence have access to everything at CA.

thanks for having the strength to scroll :)

I understand it is very hard and annoying work :P

and reading too!

Carole Cadwalladr

On January 17, 2015, leaked health records of (now) President Buhari were published in Nigeria showing he was suffering prostrate cancer. Was it hacked by Israelis working with Cambridge Analytica?



Do Americans have the slightest idea of the extent to which they are manipulated? That seems to be the big — and so far unexplored — question as scandal continues to explode around Facebook and a UK-based data company.

The news is dominated currently by Cambridge Analytica, the data company that helped propel Donald Trump into the White House. It is in hot water this week, following reports that it harvested information from 50 million Facebook users without their consent.

New stunning stories keep coming from the UK’s Channel 4. On Tuesday, these revelations resulted in the suspension of the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix. Previously, we learned that top Cambridge Analytica officials, including Nix, were caught on hidden cameras discussing dirty and possibly illegal campaign tricks — such as using beautiful women or fake businessmen to entrap rival candidates.

The secretly recorded videos, which you can see below, pull back the curtain on modern political campaigns.

More than anything, however, they show that the spread of social media, and the resulting reams of data that users willingly hand to companies like Facebook, allow campaigns to manipulate people into voting a certain way.

Here are a few striking examples of Cambridge Analytica executives caught by Channel 4 News as they boast about exploiting voters’ digital profiles in order to effectively manipulate them:

If you’re collecting data on people and you’re profiling them, that gives you more insight that you can use to know how to segment the population, to give them messaging about issues that they care about, and language, and imagery that they’re likely to engage with. And we use that in America, and we use that in Africa. That’s what we do as a company.

The two fundamental human drivers when it comes to taking information onboard effectively are hopes and fears, and many of those are unspoken and even unconscious. You didn’t know that was a fear until you saw something that just evoked that reaction from you. And our job is to get, is to drop the bucket further down the well than anybody else, to understand what are those really deep-seated underlying fears, concerns. It’s no good fighting an election campaign on the facts, because actually it’s all about emotion.

Cambridge Analytica staff also had even more egregious things to say, promising or implying all manner of nefarious undertakings, including the following:

We’ll have a wealthy developer come in, somebody posing as a wealthy developer…

[Second exec speaking:] I’m a master of disguise [laughter].

They will offer a large amount of money, to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land, for instance. We’ll have the whole thing recorded on cameras. We’ll blank out the face of our guy, and then post it on the internet.

Send some girls around to the candidates house. We have lots of history of things.

We’ve just used a different organization to run a very, very successful project in an Eastern European country where they did a really… no-one even knew they were there. They just drift, they were just ghosted in, did the work, ghosted out and produced, really, really good material. So we have experience in doing this.

We subcontract to them. We use some British companies, we use some Israeli companies. Very effective in intelligence gathering. ... your-vote/
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby American Dream » Thu Mar 22, 2018 8:46 am

Yasha Levine, March 21

The Cambridge Analytica Con

How media coverage misses the mark on the Trump data scam

Let’s start with the basics: What Cambridge Analytica is accused of doing—siphoning people’s data, compiling profiles, and then deploying that information to influence them to vote a certain way—Facebook and Silicon Valley giants like Google do every day, indeed, every minute we’re logged on, on a far greater and more invasive scale.

What Cambridge Analytica is accused of doing, Facebook and Silicon Valley giants like Google do every day, indeed, every minute we’re logged on.

Today’s internet business ecosystem is built on for-profit surveillance, behavioral profiling, manipulation and influence. That’s the name of the game. It isn’t just Facebook or Cambridge Analytica or even Google. It’s Amazon. It’s eBay. It’s Palantir. It’s Angry Birds. It’s MoviePass. It’s Lockheed Martin. It’s every app you’ve ever downloaded. Every phone you bought. Every program you watched on your on-demand cable TV package.

All of these games, apps, and platforms profit from the concerted siphoning up of all data trails to produce profiles for all sorts of micro-targeted influence ops in the private sector. This commerce in user data permitted Facebook to earn $40 billion last year, while Google raked in $110 billion.

What do these companies know about us, their users? Well, just about everything.

Silicon Valley of course keeps a tight lid on this information, but you can get a glimpse of the kinds of data our private digital dossiers contain by trawling through their patents. Take, for instance, a series of patents Google filed in the mid-2000s for its Gmail-targeted advertising technology. The language, stripped of opaque tech jargon, revealed that just about everything we enter into Google’s many products and platforms—from email correspondence to Web searches and internet browsing—is analyzed and used to profile users in an extremely invasive and personal way. Email correspondence is parsed for meaning and subject matter. Names are matched to real identities and addresses. Email attachments—say, bank statements or testing results from a medical lab—are scraped for information. Demographic and psychographic data, including social class, personality type, age, sex, political affiliation, cultural interests, social ties, personal income, and marital status is extracted. In one patent, I discovered that Google apparently had the ability to determine if a person was a legal U.S. resident or not. It also turned out you didn’t have to be a registered Google user to be snared in this profiling apparatus. All you had to do was communicate with someone who had a Gmail address.

On the whole, Google’s profiling philosophy was no different than Facebook’s, which also constructs “shadow profiles” to collect and monetize data, even if you never had a registered Facebook or Gmail account.

It’s not just the big platform monopolies that do this, but all the smaller companies that run their businesses on services operated by Google and Facebook. It even includes cute games like Angry Birds, developed by Finland’s Rovio Entertainment that’s been downloaded more than billion times. The Android version of Angry Birds was found to pull personal data on its players, including ethnicity, marital status and sexual orientation—including options for the “single,” “married,” “divorced,” “engaged,” and “swinger” categories. Pulling personal data like this didn’t contradict Google’s terms of services for its Android platform. Indeed, for-profit surveillance was the whole point of why Google launched its iPhone rival back in 2004.

In launching Android, Google made a gamble that releasing its proprietary operating system to manufacturers free of charge, it wouldn’t be relegated to running apps on Apple iPhone or Microsoft Mobile Windows like some kind of digital second-class citizen. If it played its cards right and Android succeeded, Google would be able control the environment that underpins the entire mobile experience, making it the ultimate gatekeeper of the many monetized interactions among users, apps and advertisers. And that’s exactly what happened. Today, Google monopolizes the smart phone market and dominates the mobile for-profit surveillance business.

These detailed psychological profiles, together with the direct access to users that platforms like Google and Facebook delivers, make both companies catnip to advertisers, PR flaks—and dark-money political outfits like Cambridge Analytica.

Indeed, political campaigns showed an early and pronounced affinity for the idea of targeted access and influence on platforms like Facebook. Instead of blanketing airwaves with a single political ad, they could show people ads that appealed specifically to the issues they held dear. They could also ensure that any such message spread through a targeted person’s larger social network through reposting and sharing.

The enormous commercial interest that political campaigns have shown in social media has earned them privileged attention from Silicon Valley platforms in return. Facebook runs a separate political division specifically geared to help its customers target and influence voters.

The company even allows political campaigns to upload their own lists of potential voters and supporters directly into Facebook’s data system. So armed, digital political operatives can then use those people’s social networks to identify other prospective voters who might be supportive of their candidate—and then target them with a whole new tidal wave of ads. “There’s a level of precision that doesn’t exist in any other medium,” Crystal Patterson, a Facebook employee who works with government and politics customers, told the New York Times back in 2015. “It’s getting the right message to the right people at the right time.”

Naturally, a whole slew of companies and operatives in our increasingly data-driven election scene have cropped up over the last decade to plug in to these amazing influence machines. There is a whole constellation of them working all sorts of strategies: traditional voter targeting, political propaganda mills, troll armies and bots.

More: ... con-levine
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Mar 22, 2018 11:05 am

So, long after Facebook knew that Cambridge Analytica had mined data from millions of unwitting users, a Facebook board member (Thiel) gave $1 million to a PAC that was paying the company that covertly harvested user data.

It was reported yesterday that Jared Kushner regularly uses WhatsApp to communicate with Saudi & Emirate princes.

The problem with WhatsApp's privacy boasts: They're not true

By Yasha Levine
written on February 21, 2014

"In short, we value your privacy..."

— WhatsApp's FAQ, before the company sold to Facebook

Ever since news of the WhatsApp/Facebook deal broke, members of the tech press have been heaping crazy amounts of praise on founder Jan Koum for his anti-commercialism and his intense dedication to safeguarding user privacy — which they attribute to his experience growing up under constant Big Brother surveillance in Soviet Ukraine.
"WhatsApp co-founder’s Ukraine years are why app has strong focus on users’ privacy," declared the Washington Post. "WhatsApp grew up in Silicon Valley, but its founder's background in Eastern Europe gave it its DNA," wrote Reuters.

Wired UK magazine, which just published a hagiographic account of WhatsApp's sudden rise and triumph, got the privacy story directly from Koum:

I grew up in a society where everything you did was eavesdropped on, recorded, snitched on. I had friends when we were kids getting into trouble for telling anecdotes about Communist leaders. I remember hearing stories from my parents of dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, sentenced to exile because of his political views, like Solzhenitsyn, even local dissidents who got fed up with the constant bullshit. Nobody should have the right to eavesdrop, or you become a totalitarian state -- the kind of state I escaped as a kid to come to this country where you have democracy and freedom of speech. Our goal is to protect it. We have encryption between our client and our server. We don't save any messages on our servers, we don't store your chat history. They're all on your phone.
Koum's spiel about his childhood experience inspiring him to create WhatsApp certainly makes for good PR. The story imbues his insanely overpriced mobile texting app with a moral force and historical significance — especially with images of Kiev burning and news of Ukraine on the brink of civil war.
But there's a slight problem with Koum's dramatic narrative: It's just not true.

In fact, since Koum launched WhatsApp in the summer of 2009, the company's privacy track record has been horrible: It's been aggressively incompetent and careless with user data. It has also repeatedly failed to provide users with even the most rudimentary security measures. As a result, WhatsApp left its messaging data wide open for potential surveillance and interception by intel agencies, scammers and Internet lurkers with basic hacker skills.

How bad was the problem?

It wasn't till three years after the company's launch -- the end of 2012 -- that Koum even bothered securing WhatsApp messages with the most basic encryption. From WhatsApp's launch in 2009 to the end of 2012, the app transmitted messages and sensitive data over the Internet in simple text, allowing anyone with a basic sniffing tool to intercept and read everything its users were sending.

The fact that WhatsApp sent messages in the clear was widely known. In fact, intercepting WhatsApp data was so damn easy someone created an Android app that did just that. It was called "WhatsAppSniffer" and allowed users to grab WhatsApp text messages — including video and picture attachments — sent by anyone connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

WhatsAppSniffer was more of a prank than anything else, but it demonstrated that WhatsApp's shoddy security standards could be abused in all sorts of creepy and damaging ways: a lurker could spy on underage kids flirting and sending pictures through a Wi-Fi network in a cafe, an employer could monitor workers texting over a corporate network, scammers could siphon off personal information from someone texting personal financial information while connected to a public network... and of course, intelligence agencies could just vacuum up text, image and location data as it bounced around the Internet unencrypted.

This security problem was discovered and made public at least as early as 2011, but WhatsApp seemed in no rush to do anything about it. It took the company a full year to finally start encrypting its messages — and it very well might have taken WhatsApp much longer if Dutch and Canadian officials hadn't launched an investigation into WhatsApp's data and privacy practices.

WhatsApp's security problems didn't end there. Last year, security researchers discovered that the company was using a half-baked encryption method that can be easily cracked.

Forget true end-to-end encryption — the only real way to get privacy on the Internet: WhatsApp inept engineers couldn't properly implement encryption at all.

PC World reported on the security flaw, which was discovered by a researcher from Utrecht University in October 2013:

The problem is that the same key is used to encrypt both outgoing and incoming streams between the client and the WhatsApp server, said Thijs Alkemade, a computer science and mathematics student at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and lead developer of the open-source Adium instant messaging client for Mac OS X.

Because of this, if two messages are encrypted with the same key and an attacker can intercept them, like on an open wireless network, he can analyze them to cancel out the key and eventually recover the original plaintext information.

Reusing the key in this manner is a basic crypto implementation error that the WhatsApp developers should have been aware of, Alkemade said Wednesday. It’s a mistake made by the Soviets in the 1950s and by Microsoft in its VPN software in 1995, he said. The Soviets made the same mistake in the 1950s? Perhaps that's what Koum meant when he said WhatsApps's attitude to privacy was informed by his days in the Soviet Union.

WhatsApp dismissed Thijs Alkemade's findings, telling PC World that this security flaw was "theoretical in nature" and would not occur in the real world. It's not clear whether the company ever fixed the vulnerability.

And WhatsApp's encryption and privacy problems just kept on coming.

In early 2013, Canada's Privacy Commissioner and the Dutch Data Protection Authority released the results of their joint investigation into WhatsApp's data handling. They ruled that the company violated several Canadian and Dutch privacy laws.

One of the violations had to do with WhatsApp's practice of forcing users to upload their phone's entire contact list in order to discover other WhatsApp users.

Among other things, the investigation found that WhatsApp permanently stores phone numbers of non-users and then fails to properly protect or anonymize the information. Canadian and Dutch privacy investigators tested the company's internal encryption and found it to be generally useless. It was so weak that it could be cracked in under three minutes using a "standard, low-power desktop computer."

That's right, an off-the-shelf PC can crack WhatsApp's encryption in a matter of minutes. As Edward Snowden's leaks have taught us, there's no way to make any web service completely safe from government eavesdropping. What's remarkable is how little effort WhatsApp appears to have made to protect its users, even from a bored teenage hacker in a coffee shop.

And yet, thanks to some careful phrasing, Koum was able to confidently boast to Wired magazine that WhatsApp is safe from NSA surveillance:

There really is no key to give ... People need to differentiate us from companies like Yahoo! and Facebook that collect your data and have it sitting on their servers. We want to know as little about our users as possible. We don't know your name, your gender ... We designed our system to be as anonymous as possible. We're not advertisement-driven so we don't need personal databases.

Interestingly, for all that talk about anonymity and privacy, WhatsApp's terms of service spend a lot of words talking about how the company may collect and analyze users' "personally identifiable information"...
We may use both your Personally Identifiable Information and certain non-personally-identifiable information (such as anonymous user usage data, cookies, IP addresses, browser type, clickstream data, etc.) to improve the quality and design of the WhatsApp Site and WhatsApp Service and to create new features, promotions, functionality, and services by storing, tracking, and analyzing user preferences and trends. Hopefully we improve the WhatsApp Site and Service and don't make it suck worse. We may use cookies and log file information to: (a) remember information so that you will not have to re-enter it during your visit or the next time you use the WhatsApp Service or WhatsApp Site; (b) provide custom, personalized content and information; (c) monitor individual and aggregate metrics such as total number of visitors, pages viewed, etc.; and (d) track your entries, submissions, views and such.

And yet, thanks to this week's big news, all of that is in the past. WhatsApp might have played fast and loose with the security of its hundreds of millions of users up to now, but that's about to change. After all, if there's one company WhatsApp users can trust to safeguard their privacy, surely that company is... uh... Facebook. ... -not-true/

Caroline O.

ICYMI: Cambridge Analytica is linked to a Chinese security and logistics company run by Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater (and brother-in-law of Betsy DeVos) who has come under renewed scrutiny recently in the Mueller probe. ... f4a971929f

Related: FEC filings show that in Sept 2016, Erik Prince was the 2nd largest donor to Make America #1 — the PAC that paid for Cambridge Analytica's work for the Trump campaign.Caroline O. added,

1. Erik Prince was one of the top donor's to the PAC that paid for Cambridge Analytica's work for the Trump campaign.
"Make America #1" PAC also covertly paid Steve Bannon for his work on behalf of Cambridge Analytica — after he claimed he no longer had any financial involvement with Cambridge Analytica.Caroline O. added,

2. "Make America #1" paid millions to Cambridge Analytica (CA) & covertly funneled $$ to Bannon after he said he stepped from down from CA.

--> FEC filings also show that in Oct 2016, Facebook board member Peter Thiel gave $1 million to "Make America #1" — the PAC that paid Cambridge Analytica for their work for the Trump campaign. ... 990/sa/ALL
So, long after Facebook knew that Cambridge Analytica had mined data from millions of unwitting users, a Facebook board member (Thiel) gave $1 million to a PAC that was paying the company that covertly harvested user data.

... from Facebook

Ed Krassenstein
3h3 hours ago
BREAKING: Chris Wylie tells @AriMelber that Rudy Giuliani's law firm told Steve Bannon, Alexander Nix & Rebekah Mercer that Cambridge Analytica's activities were in violation of American campaign laws! Yet Bannon still had the Trump campaign use them! Wylie says he has proof!![/quote]
Last edited by seemslikeadream on Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby Grizzly » Thu Mar 22, 2018 4:31 pm

SCL and the Phantom Contract
embedded links in the original article* ... -contract/
In the second of our explosive expose of the SCL Group we ask: what is the phantom contract with the MOD from 2010/11 and what did the ‘external training’ a previous FOI revealed involve? The MOD is now contradicting previous information it has given out under Freedom of Information laws. As a senior SCL executive admits to us that the company’s future is in doubt, Liam O’Hare argues that the government has critical questions to answer.

Theresa May was yesterday forced into addressing the issue of links between the UK Government, the Conservative Party and a company at the centre of a scandal over data harvesting and dirty tricks.

However, instead of clearing up the issue – the response has raised urgent questions about the nature of SCL Group’s (formerly Strategic Communications Laboratories) relationship to the highest echelons of state power in Britain.

SCL Group is the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. They share directors and practise and are for all intents and purposes part of the same organisation. Between them they claim to have influenced more than 200 elections across the world.

In an article for this website, I revealed the extent of the links between SCL Group and the British establishment – in particular the Conservative Party. Directors include an array of Etonian educated Tory donors, former government ministers, and high-ranking officers in the British army.

These revelations led to the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford questioning May about these links at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.

Her response sidestepped the issue of connections between her own party and the organisation and emphasised that the government has no “current contracts” with SCL Group.

A Downing Street spokesperson later clarified that the government previously had three contracts with SCL Group. One was with the Ministry of Defence between 2014-2015, one with the Home Office in 2009 and one with the Foreign Office in 2008-2009. Here lies a glaring inconsistency.

Last year, the MOD responded to a freedom of information request on its links with SCL Group. In its response it detailed TWO contracts it had with the firm. One of these was in 2014-15, worth £150,000 and involving the “procurement of targeted audience analysis”. However, it also notes a second contract (not mentioned by the No 10 spokesperson) , in 2010/11 involving the “provision of external training” and worth £40,000.

I put this major discrepancy to Downing St who insisted that there were only ever three government contracts with the group and suggested I speak to the Ministry of Defence.

Then when I questioned the MOD about the 2010/11 deal, it told me it had “one contract with SCL Group in 2014/15” and are “unable to provide any further information on this.”

The response is quite remarkable. The MOD is now contradicting previous information it has given out under Freedom of Information laws. That leaves two options. The first is that the initial information was incorrect and someone imagined a deal with SLC group for external training in 2010/11.

The second is that the MOD and Downing St are providing false information to journalists regarding their dealings with SCL Group. This possibility would open a pandora’s box of questions over what the government is seeking to hide and why?

It was revealed yesterday that Mark Turnbull of SCL Group and CA advised the Foreign Office on lessons from Donald Trump’s election campaign. The title of his lecture was listed as “examining the application of data in the recent US Presidential election”. That raises questions over whether the British government was already aware of the mass harvesting of Facebook data which sparked this scandal.

Details are emerging about the worldwide activities of SCL Group and CA, touching almost every corner of the globe stretching from Brazil, to Nigeria, to Mexico and to India. But it has now emerged that in at least some of these these projects, CA coordinated with the UK MOD.

In Ukraine, SCL were hired to implement a data driven strategy designed to “erode and weaken” anti-government opposition in the country and “win back control of Donetsk”. On their website the CA says it produced a project report to the President of Ukraine and intriguingly also “shared with the UK MOD”. It begs the questions, why is a private contractor involved in shadowy psyops working hand in glove with the UK MOD on foreign projects?

With a spotlight on the organisation, the group seems to be quickly trying to batten down the hatches. The website for the Behaviour Dynamic Institute (BDI), the behavioural research arm of SCL group has mysteriously gone down.

Remarkably (although perhaps less so regarding how close SCL is to the British establishment) the institute is based at the home of British science and research, the Royal Institute. According to a paper by the SCL director of defence Dr Steve Tatham, this makes it “almost unique in the international contractor community”. Quite.

Tatham is another interesting case. He was former head of psyops for British forces in Afghanistan as well as Special Information Operations project officer in the UK Ministry of Defence Operations Directorate.

Tatham went on to set up the training arm of SCL Group called IOTA-Global alongside SCL founder Nigel Oakes and delivered a $1m NATO training course in Latvia aimed at “countering Russian propaganda”.

I contacted Tatham to ask if he would continue working with SCL group in light of the revelations, and he responded by saying “I suspect your question is academic as I can’t see SCL surviving this”.

In further messages, Tatham distanced himself from Cambridge Analytica, the offshoot from SCL Group, and insisted his activities were “ethical” and “truthful”.

“I have worked with SCL Defence on defence projects which is well documented, for example the NATO counter propaganda course in Latvia in 2015,” Tatham told me.

“In UK and NATO doctrine Psyops is ‘truthful and attributable comms with specific target audiences’ not the the appalling stuff CA (Cambridge Analytica) appears to have undertaken,”

“A point about what and who we train. Only NATO and friendly governments. And we only train truthful and attributable techniques. Why? Because our clients work with NATO and that is UK and NATO doctrine… as ex UK military senior officer I have strong personal ethics and that is why we are all so appalled at the revelations about CA”.

With founder Alexander Nix being suspended from Cambridge Analytica, a pattern seems to be developing that shifts all blame for the recent scandals onto the subsidiary as opposed to the parent company SCL Group.

However, with the links between the two organisations evident and further revelations emerging every day, it seems clear that this will not wash.

It’s now time for the UK government to come completely clean on exactly what ties it had with SCL Group and answer the following questions:

Was it aware of the data harvesting used in the US election?

What is the phantom contract with the MOD in 2010/11 and what did the ‘external training’ involve?

What did the other contracts that the government had with SCL Group involve and did it make any other payments to the group, outside of the contracts?

Was there coordination between SCL Group and the MOD in other countries as existed in Ukraine?

Why is taking so long for the Information Commissioner to get a warrant to search databases and servers of Cambridge Analytica?

Until these are answered, we can expect this scandal, which reaches the heart of unaccountable British power, to rumble on and on.

Also see, SCL – a Very British Coup ... tish-coup/
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:25 am

The political action committee founded by John Bolton was one of the earliest customers of Cambridge Analytica, which it hired specifically to develop psychological profiles of voters with data harvested from millions of Facebook profiles.

A second whistleblower has come forward to expose the inner workings of how Cambridge Analytica targeted Trump voters

Brittany Kaiser of Cambridge Analytica speaks during a Leave.EU news conference in central London, Britain November 18, 2015. Picture taken November 18, 2015.
Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
A second former employee from Cambridge Analytica has come forward to speak to the media about how the firm operated while it was working for Donald Trump's campaign during the 2016 presidential race.
Brittany Kaiser detailed a 27-page internal presentation in which the firm describes how it targeted Trump voters on social media.
Cambridge Analytica is embroiled in an international controversy over its alleged improper use of millions of people's Facebook data.
Another former employee of Cambridge Analytica has come forward and revealed the techniques the controversial data firm used to target US voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

A 27-page internal presentation obtained by The Guardian shows how Cambridge Analytica used Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, and Snapchat to push pro-Donald Trump advertisements during the campaign.

While the advertising techniques described in the internal presentation were perfectly legal, they provide further insight into the extent to which Cambridge tried to influence people's perceptions of political candidates on the internet in the run-up to the 2016 election.

The Trump campaign hired the firm to lead its digital advertising efforts in early June 2016. Upon joining the Trump team, Cambridge staff discovered it had virtually no centralized digital marketing team.

"There was no database of record. There were many disparate data sources that were not connected, matched or hygiened," Brittany Kaiser, who left her job as a business development director at Cambridge two weeks ago, told The Guardian. "There was no data science program, so they weren't undertaking any modelling."

But Cambridge helped the Trump campaign turn things around with in-depth survey research, data modelling, and targeted algorithms on social media.

In one example detailed in the leaked 27-page presentation, Cambridge bought ad space on Google so that when people searched the words "Trump Iraq War," the first query would show a pro-Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton message.

"Hillary Voted for the Iraq War — Donald Trump opposed it," one of the ads read.

"Hillary Clinton supports NAFTA — She will ship jobs overseas," said another.

Kaiser left Cambridge Analytica earlier this month over a contract dispute, according to The Guardian. She is the second former employee from the company — following 28-year-old Christopher Wylie— to speak to the media about how the firm operated.

Cambridge has been under intense scrutiny in the last week after it was reported that the firm used the personal information of 50 million people on Facebook without authorization to target them with personalized political advertisements.

Facebook has since suspended the firm from buying ads or managing pages on its social media platform. The company's CEO, Alexander Nix, has also been suspended amid an investigation by British lawmakers into fake news and Nix's contradictory statements regarding Cambridge's use of data from Facebook. ... irm-2018-3

Carole Cadwalladr

2h2 hours ago
Two days ago, we revealed Brittany Kaiser introduced Cambridge Analytica employees to Israeli hackers. Today, she leaks the company's blueprint for the Trump campaign to @PaulLewis & @paulhilder. Interesting play, Brittany.

Leaked: Cambridge Analytica's blueprint for Trump victory

Exclusive: Former employee explains how presentation showed techniques used to target voters

Paul HilderLast modified on Fri 23 Mar 2018 11.13 EDT
The blueprint for how Cambridge Analytica claimed to have won the White House for Donald Trump by using Google, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube is revealed for the first time in an internal company document obtained by the Guardian.

The 27-page presentation was produced by the Cambridge Analytica officials who worked most closely on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

A former employee explained to the Guardian how it details the techniques used by the Trump campaign to micro-target US voters with carefully tailored messages about the Republican nominee across digital channels.

Intensive survey research, data modelling and performance-optimising algorithms were used to target 10,000 different ads to different audiences in the months leading up to the election. The ads were viewed billions of times, according to the presentation.

A sample of Cambridge Analytica’s ‘Trump for President’ debrief
The document was presented to Cambridge Analytica employees in London, New York and Washington DC weeks after Trump’s victory, providing an insight into how the controversial firm helped pull off one of the most dramatic political upsets in modern history.

“This is the debrief of the data-driven digital campaign that was employed for Mr Trump,” said Brittany Kaiser, 30, who was Cambridge Analytica’s business development director until two weeks ago, when she left over a contractual dispute.

She is the second former employee to come forward in less than a week, talking exclusively to the Guardian about the inner workings of the firm, including the work she said it conducted on the UK’s EU membership referendum.

She said she had access to a copy of the same document now obtained by the Guardian, and had used it to showcase the campaign’s secret methods to potential clients of Cambridge Analytica.

“There was a huge demand internally for people to see how we did it,” Kaiser said of the 2016 race. “Everyone wanted to know: past clients, future clients. The whole world wanted to see it. This is what we were allowed to confidentially show people if they signed a non-disclosure agreement.”

Kaiser claims to be committed to human rights, but many would argue her career at Cambridge Analytica tells a different story. She has worked extensively for the firm, pitching business to clients in countries that have a history of exploitation by western political mercenaries, including Lithuania, Benin, Ethiopia and Libya.

Cambridge Analytica has a reputation among political operatives for exaggerating its role in campaigns. A senior Trump campaign official who said they saw the document about a year ago claimed it took credit for some work that was done by the Republican national committee and Trump’s digital director, Brad Parscale.

Kaiser did not work on the campaign but said she gleaned information about how it was orchestrated during discussions with senior staff, including the now suspended chief executive, Alexander Nix.

None of the techniques described in the document are illegal. However, the scandal over Cambridge Analytica’s acquisition of data from more than 50 million Facebook users is lifting the lid on an industry that has learned how to closely track the online footprint and daily lives of US voters.

Despite the advances made in data-led political campaigning, these were techniques that, according to the presentation, Trump did not have access to when Cambridge Analytica joined his campaign in early June 2016.

The Republican nominee, who had just secured sufficient delegates to become the party’s candidate, still had “no speakable data infrastructure” and “no unifying data, digital and tech strategy”, the document states.

Kaiser said Cambridge Analytica staff told her they were stunned when they arrived at Trump’s headquarters in Trump Tower, New York.

“There was no database of record. There were many disparate data sources that were not connected, matched or hygiened,” she said of the process of ordering, sorting and cleaning enormous data sets. “There was no data science programme, so they weren’t undertaking any modelling. There was no digital marketing team.”

One of the first things Cambridge Analytica did, she said, was work with data supplied by the party’s data trust and other data acquired through an initiative called Project Alamo.

The document contains very little information about how the campaign used Facebook data. One page, however, suggests Cambridge Analytica was able to constantly monitor the effectiveness of its messaging on different types of voters, giving the company and the campaign constant feedback about levels of engagement on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat.

The feedback loop meant the algorithms could be constantly updated and improved to deliver thousands of different messages to voters depending on their profile.

The level of information the company could glean about voters – and the apparent appetite among Silicon Valley companies to cash in on the advertising bonanza – is illustrated on another page which shows how the Trump campaign used a prime piece of marketing real estate on election day: YouTube’s entire masthead.

Kaiser said Hillary Clinton’s campaign had reserved the space on Google’s video-hosting platform but was so confident of victory that it gave it up. “Google called us and said this ad space is now available, immediately,” Kaiser said. “That’s what I was told.”

The Trump campaign seized the opportunity, showing two different ads to different categories of voters according to the detailed geographical information of visitors to the YouTube home page.

Voters in areas where people were likely to be Trump supporters were shown a triumphant-looking image of the nominee, and help finding their nearest polling station.

Those whose geographical information suggested they were not fervent Trump supporters, such as swing voters, were shown photos of his high-profile supporters, including his daughter Ivanka Trump, a celebrity from the reality TV show Duck Dynasty, and Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

One of the most effective ads, according to Kaiser, was a piece of native advertising on the political news website Politico, which was also profiled in the presentation. The interactive graphic, which looked like a piece of journalism and purported to list “10 inconvenient truths about the Clinton Foundation”, appeared for several weeks to people from a list of key swing states when they visited the site. It was produced by the in-house Politico team that creates sponsored content.

The Cambridge Analytica presentation dedicates an entire slide to the ad, which is described as having achieved “an average engagement time of four minutes”. Kaiser described the ad as “the most successful thing we pushed out”.

Politico said editorial journalists were not involved in the campaign, and similar ads were purchased by the Bernie Sanders and Clinton campaigns.

Advertisements on Facebook, Twitter, Google and the music-sharing app Pandora were used to help convince 35,000 supporters to install an app used by the most active supporters.

According to the presentation, Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign also used a new advertising technique offered by Twitter, launched at the start of the election year, which enabled clients to kickstart viral tweets.

The “conversational ads” feature was used to encourage Trump’s followers to tweet using a set of pre-determined hashtags.

The campaign also took advantage of an ad opportunity provided by Snapchat, enabling users to swipe up and immediately see a preloaded web page. While not useful for securing donors, Cambridge Analytica deemed the tool useful for engaging potential voter “contacts”, according to the presentation.

One of the final slides explains how the company used paid-for Google ads to implement “persuasion search advertising”, to push pro-Trump and anti-Clinton search results through the company’s main search facility.

One slide showed how the company ensured that voters searching the words “Trump Iraq War” would encounter paid-for search results that were favourable to his campaign. “Control The First Impression,” the slide says, with an arrow pointing to a search result that states: “Hillary Voted for the Iraq War – Donald Trump opposed it.”

“That’s a Google manipulation thing,” Kaiser said, adding that while a “general person” probably did not know how easy it was to pay for ads to appear high in Google search results, it was considered “an old-school tactic” in her industry. ... are_btn_tw
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Mar 23, 2018 10:01 pm

TheBeat w/Ari Melber
4h4 hours ago

New: We obtained the secret memo from Rudy Giuliani's law firm directly warning one of Trump's biggest donors, Rebekah Mercer, Steve Bannon and Trump data firm CEO Alexander Nix about breaking U.S. law.

Bolton = Mercer's lil handmaid.
Mercer = Campbridge Analytica.


Cambridge Analytica offices searched

Building hosting Cambridge Analytica's office in central LondonEPA
The building housing Cambridge Analytica's office is in central London
Eighteen enforcement officers working for the UK's information commissioner are searching the London headquarters of Cambridge Analytica.

The High Court granted the data watchdog a warrant amid claims the firm amassed information about millions of people without their consent, based on a 2014 personality quiz on Facebook.

It is part of a wider investigation into political campaigning.

Both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook deny any wrongdoing.

Cambridge Analytica's acting chief executive, Alexander Tayler, said the company has been in touch with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) since February 2017 and it remained committed to helping the investigation.

In a statement, he said checks in 2015 showed all the Facebook data had been deleted but the company was now undertaking an independent third-party audit to verify none remained.

Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended on Tuesday after footage broadcast on Channel 4 appeared to show him suggesting tactics his company could use to discredit politicians online.

The ICO applied for the warrant to access to the databases and servers of Cambridge Analytica.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has said she was looking at whether personal data was acquired in "an unauthorised way", whether there was sufficient consent to share the data, what was done to safeguard it and whether Facebook acted robustly when it found out about the loss of the data.

Cambridge Analytica: What we know so far
Claims over whether Cambridge Analytica used the personal data of millions of Facebook users to sway the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum have also been raised.

The company denies any of the data harvested in the 2014 Facebook quiz created by an academic was used in its work for Donald Trump's campaign.

Meanwhile, the director of Vote Leave has denied allegations of links between his campaign and Cambridge Analytica. Dominic Cummings said claims by the Observer newspaper are "factually wrong, hopelessly confused, or nonsensical".

In a separate development, Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica's former business development director, has told the Guardian the firm carried out data analysis for Leave.EU, the rival Brexit campaign to Vote Leave that was fronted by Nigel Farage.

Cambridge Analytica said it did "no paid or unpaid work" for Leave.EU.

Bannon knew


Staff claim Cambridge Analytica and the Mercers ignored US ban on foreigners working on elections & employed non-American citizens in apparent violation of federal law, despite receiving a legal warning about the risks.


Cloak and Data: The Real Story Behind Cambridge Analytica’s Rise and Fall

The secretive data firm said it could move the minds of American voters. That wasn’t its real victory.

Andy KrollMay/June 2018 Issue

1. “I can’t stand lying to you every day”

In the late summer of 2015, Chris Wilson, the director of research, analytics, and digital strategy for Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, had a conversation with a contractor that left him furious. A widely respected pollster who had taken leave from his firm to work full time for Cruz, Wilson oversaw a team of more than 40 data scientists, developers, and digital marketers, one of the largest departments inside Cruz’s Houston-based operation. The Iowa caucuses were fast approaching, and the Cruz campaign had poured nearly $13 million into winning the opening contest of the primary season.

As the campaign laid the groundwork for Iowa, a sizable chunk of its spending—$4.4 million and counting—flowed to a secretive company with British roots named Cambridge Analytica. A relative newcomer to American politics, the firm sold itself as the latest, greatest entrant into the burgeoning field of political technology. It claimed to possess detailed profiles on 230 million American voters based on up to 5,000 data points, everything from where you live to whether you own a car, your shopping habits and voting record, the medications you take, your religious affiliation, and the TV shows you watch. This data is available to anyone with deep pockets. But Cambridge professed to bring a unique approach to the microtargeting techniques that have become de rigueur in politics. It promised to couple consumer information with psychological data, harvested from social-media platforms and its own in-house survey research, to group voters by personality type, pegging them as agreeable or neurotic, confrontational or conciliatory, leaders or followers. It would then target these groups with specially tailored images and messages, delivered via Facebook ads, glossy mailers, or in-person interactions. The company’s CEO, a polo-playing Eton graduate named Alexander Nix, called it “our secret sauce.”

As a rule, Nix said his firm generally steered clear of working in British politics to avoid controversy in its own backyard. But it had no qualms applying its mind-bending techniques to a foreign electorate. “It’s someone else’s political system,” explains one former Cambridge employee, a British citizen. “It’s not ours. None of us would ever consider doing what we were doing here.”

“They’re just full of shit, right?” Paul Manafort asked. “I don’t want ’em anywhere near the campaign.”
Brought to Cruz by two of the campaign’s biggest backers, hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, Cambridge Analytica was put in charge of the entire data and digital operation, embedding 12 of its employees in Houston. The company, largely owned by Robert Mercer, said it had something special for Cruz. According to marketing materials obtained by Mother Jones, it pitched a “revolutionary” piece of software called Ripon, an all-in-one tool that let a campaign manage its voter database, microtargeting efforts, door-to-door canvassing, low-dollar fundraising, and surveys. Ripon, Cambridge vowed, was “the future of campaigning.” (The name is a clever bit of marketing: Ripon is the small town in Wisconsin where the Republican Party was born.)

The Cruz campaign believed Ripon might give it an edge in a crowded field of Republican hopefuls. But the software wasn’t ready right away. According to former Cruz staffers, Wilson inquired about Ripon’s status daily. It was almost finished, he was repeatedly told. Weeks passed, then months. Finally, in August 2015, one of the Cambridge consultants in Houston came clean. Ripon “doesn’t exist,” he told Wilson, according to several former Cruz staffers. “It’ll never exist. I’ve just resigned because I can’t stand lying to you every day anymore.” The campaign had hired Cambridge in the belief it could use Ripon to help win Cruz the nomination; instead, it was paying millions of dollars to build the Ripon technology. “It was like an internal Ponzi scheme,” a former Cruz campaign official told me.

The Cruz campaign couldn’t fire Cambridge outright. The Mercers wouldn’t be happy, and the campaign was too far along to ax a significant part of its digital staff. Still, Cruz officials steadily reduced Cambridge’s role. Even though the campaign used Cambridge’s psychological data in Iowa, Cruz’s victory there in February 2016 did nothing to quell the growing distrust campaign officials felt toward the company.

The Cruz team wasn’t alone in its doubts about the firm. Cambridge was also working, albeit in a more limited role, for rival Ben Carson’s campaign, whose experience with the company was similarly frustrating. Cambridge, for instance, sold itself as an expert in TV advertising yet failed to grasp basic facts about buying ads. Carson staffers came away feeling like Cambridge was at best in over its head and at worst a sham.

After Carson and Cruz dropped out and Trump all but clinched the nomination, Doug Watts, a senior staffer on the Carson campaign, got a call from Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman. “What do you know about Cambridge Analytica?” Manafort asked.

Watts replied that he didn’t think much of the firm. “They’re just full of shit, right?” Manafort said, according to Watts. “I don’t want ’em anywhere near the campaign.”

A few months later, on September 19, 2016, Alexander Nix strode onstage at the Concordia Annual Summit in Manhattan, a highbrow TED-meets-Davos confab. He was a featured speaker alongside Madeleine Albright, Warren Buffett, David Petraeus, and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Wired magazine had recently named him one of its “25 Geniuses Who Are Creating the Future of Business.”

In a dark tailored suit and designer glasses, wearing a signet ring on his left pinkie, Nix regaled the audience with the story of how Cambridge Analytica had turned Ted Cruz from an obscure and reviled US senator into “the only credible threat to the phenomenon Donald Trump.” Using Cambridge’s methods, the Cruz campaign had sliced and diced Iowa caucus-goers into hyperspecific groups based on their personality traits and the issues they cared about, such as the Second Amendment. As Nix clicked through his slides, he showed how it was possible to use so-called psychographics—a fancy term for measuring attitudes and interests of individuals—to narrow the universe of Iowans from the tens of thousands down to a single persuadable voter. In this case, Nix’s slide listed a man named Jeffrey Jay Ruest, a registered Republican born in 1963. He was “very low in neuroticism, quite low in openness, and slightly conscientious”—and would likely be receptive to a gun rights message.

“Clearly the Cruz campaign is over now,” he said as he finished his presentation, “but what I can tell you is that of the two candidates left in this election, one of them is using these technologies, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how they impact the next seven weeks.”

That candidate was Donald Trump. After Cruz dropped out in May 2016, the Mercers had quickly shifted their alliance to Trump, and his campaign hired their data firm over Manafort’s apparent objections. “Obviously he didn’t bargain for Rebekah Mercer being their big advocate,” Watts says. “So I presume he just capitulated.” Soon Trump jettisoned Manafort and installed in his place the Mercers’ political Svengali, Steve Bannon, who was also a board member, vice president, and part-owner of Cambridge Analytica.

“Nix the salesman is an artist, to be honest,” one colleague says. Another says, “He’ll always be like, ‘Can I give it a go? Can I sell this to you and work out the details afterward?'”
Come November 9, 2016, Cambridge wasted no time touting itself as a visionary that had seen Trump’s path to the White House when no one else did. Nix took an international victory lap to drum up new political business in Australia, India, Brazil, and Germany. Another Cambridge director gushed that the firm was receiving so much client interest that “it’s like drinking from a fire hose.”

Actually, the 2016 election was the high-water mark for Cambridge Analytica. Since then, the firm has all but vanished from the US political scene. According to Nix, this was by design. Late last year, he said his company had ceased pursuing new US political business. But recently, an extraordinary series of developments unfolded that led to Nix’s suspension as CEO and left the company’s future uncertain. A whistleblower went public with allegations, since cited in a class-action lawsuit, that the company had used unethical methods to obtain a massive trove of Facebook data to fuel its psychographic tactics.

“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,” Chris Wylie, who helped launch the company, told the British Observer. “That was the basis the entire company was built on.” Next came the release of an undercover investigation by the United Kingdom’s Channel 4, which captured video of Nix and other Cambridge executives explaining how they could covertly inject propaganda “into the bloodstream to the internet.” They also described how their services could include bribing a politician and recording undercover video or sending “very beautiful” Ukrainian “girls” to entrap a candidate.

The fallout was swift. Facebook, already under fire for facilitating the spread of disinformation, suspended Cambridge from its platform. British officials sought a warrant to search the company’s office. Lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic demanded answers. “They should be barred from any US election or government work until a full investigation can be conducted,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted.

The story of Cambridge Analytica’s rise—and its rapid fall—in some ways parallels the ascendance of the candidate it claims it helped elevate to the presidency. It reached the apex of American politics through a mix of bluffing, luck, failing upward, and—yes—psychological manipulation. Sound familiar?

Like Trump, Nix was a master of hype who peddled a story that people wanted to believe. Take Jeffrey Ruest, the voter Nix identified at the Concordia Summit, down to the latitude and longitude of his home, to illustrate the firm’s psychographic prowess in Iowa. The message was that Cambridge had the ability to peer into the minds of—and to persuade—voters on the most granular level. Ruest wouldn’t have been useful to Cruz or any of his GOP rivals in Iowa, though. He lives a thousand miles away in North Carolina. But why let inconvenient details interfere with the perfect pitch?

2. “We called him Mr. Bond”

“We use the same techniques as Aristotle and Hitler,” the consultant said. “We appeal to people on an emotional level to get them to agree on a functional level.”

The year was 1992. The consultant was Nigel Oakes, a former Monte Carlo TV producer and ad man for Saatchi & Saatchi, and he was speaking to the trade magazine Marketing. Oakes was then running the Behavioural Dynamics Institute, a “research facility for understanding group behaviour” and for harnessing the power of psychology to craft messages that change hearts and minds. But in reality, Oakes’ institute was a stalking horse for the company he would launch the year after the interview.

Strategic Communication Laboratories, the public affairs company that would later spawn Cambridge Analytica, began small, applying its behavioral-science-minded approach to public influence campaigns in the United Kingdom, including one that, it boasts, rescued Lloyd’s of London by convincing Britons to invest another $1.5 billion in the ailing insurance market. But SCL soon branched into politics. Oakes says he advised Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress on how to prevent violence during the 1994 elections, as well as politicians in Asia, South America, and Europe. In 2000, the government of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, who was struggling to contain the violence and upheaval in his country, hired Oakes to burnish his image, which involved building an elaborate media command center in Jakarta for monitoring and shaping public sentiment. “We called him Mr. Bond because he is English,” one of Oakes’ Indonesian employees told the Independent, “and because he is such a mystery.”

In 2005, SCL expanded into military and defense, pitching the use of “psychological operations” and “soft power” in the war on terror. The firm began picking up major clients, including the Pentagon and the UK Ministry of Defense, advising them on which Afghan leaders to target with counterinsurgency messages or how to dissuade teenage boys from joining Al Qaeda.

The company had meanwhile hired Nix, a former financial analyst, to grow its nondefense business. Former colleagues say he was just the man for the job. “Nix the salesman is an artist, to be honest,” one told me. Another referred to him as a “chancer,” the British term for a consummate opportunist. “He’ll always be like, ‘Can I give it a go?’” the colleague said. “‘Can I sell this to you and work out the details afterward?’”

Nix had an eye on the United States, where the courts were stripping away restrictions on political spending and empowering a new class of individual megadonors. He traveled here in 2010 to get the lay of the land but came away discouraged. Political consultants picked sides in America, he learned. A British outfit that worked with both left- and right-of-center clients might struggle to break into the market.

Then, on Election Day in November 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney watched as his campaign’s voter-turnout app, code-named Project Orca, crashed. It was humiliating but indicative of a larger dynamic: Democrats, powered by President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 runs, had gained a huge advantage over their Republican counterparts in the realms of data and technology. The GOP’s 2012 postmortem report called for a cultural shift inside the party to embrace new tools and methodologies to win. “We have to be the Party that is open and ready to rebuild our entire playbook,” it read, “and we must take advice from outside our comfort zone.”

Nix saw his opening. SCL had recently rebranded itself as an expert in data analytics, the sifting and distilling of vast amounts of information from different sources into actionable outcomes. That skill set, combined with SCL’s previous work in microtargeting and psy-ops, made it an ideal candidate to find an audience in the world of Republican politics. “The Republicans had been left behind,” Nix later said. “By the time Romney lost in 2012, there was a vacuum. And so that was the commercial opportunity.”

Nix was soon introduced to Chris Wylie, then a twentysomething Canadian technologist. Wylie had worked under Obama’s director of targeting and consulted for Canada’s Liberal Party. Nix hired him and put him to work building a company that could attract clients in the hypercompetitive US political market. Wylie, for his part, had an idea about how his new employer, SCL, might gain an edge.

In 2007, David Stillwell, then a Ph.D. student in psychology, stumbled onto a digital gold mine. He’d always wondered about his personality and how he would score in the five-factor model, a personality test that measures openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Known as Ocean, this model is widely used by psychologists. But one challenge they encountered when applying it to different areas—marketing, relationships, politics—was gathering sufficient data. People naturally hesitate to give personal information about their fears, desires, and motivations.

Stillwell knew a little code, so he pulled certain Big Five questionnaires off the internet, stuck them in a quiz format, and uploaded an app to Facebook called myPersonality. It quickly went viral. Millions of people took the quiz, and with their permission, Stillwell went on to accumulate data on personality traits and Facebook habits for 4 million of them.

Using this data, Stillwell, now working at the University of Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre, and two other researchers published a paper in 2013 in which they showed how you could predict an individual’s skin color or sexuality based on her Facebook “likes.” They found a correlation between high intelligence and likes of “thunderstorms,” “The Colbert Report,” and “curly fries,” while users who liked the Hello Kitty brand tended to be high on openness and lower on conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability.

Stillwell told me that as an afterthought, he and his co-authors threw in some language at the end about the commercial possibilities of their findings. The paper attracted the attention of companies looking to leverage Facebook and other social-media data for their own purposes. One person who took a keen interest was SCL’s Chris Wylie.

According to emails obtained by Mother Jones, Wylie approached Stillwell and a colleague via a fellow faculty member, a young Russian American professor named Aleksandr Kogan, hoping to cut a deal in which the firm would get access to Stillwell’s data.

Stillwell hadn’t heard of SCL. But he agreed to a meeting. When dates were circulated between the Cambridge academics and the SCL representatives, the title wasn’t subtle: “Panopticon meeting.” (Panopticon refers to a prison or building constructed so that all parts of it are visible by a single watchman but the surveilled can’t see who’s viewing them.) In the end, Stillwell decided not to partner with SCL.

Undeterred, SCL instead hired Kogan, who went on to create his own Facebook app, “thisisyourdigitallife.” As detailed in a class-action suit against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the app—which purported to be for academic research—not only collected personality data on the 270,000 people who took the quiz but also let Kogan vacuum up Facebook user data on all their friends. The Washington Post reported in late March that Facebook separately provided Kogan with data on 57 billion friendships as part of his work with two of the company’s data scientists between 2013 and 2015. Around the same time he was mining Facebook data, Kogan also forged a relationship with Saint Petersburg University, which hired him as an associate professor and provided him with research funding. He denies this research had any connection to his work for SCL.

According to Wylie, Kogan acquired more than 50 million profiles. He says Kogan then passed that data to SCL—in apparent violation of Facebook’s terms of use—in order to build its psychographic profiling methods. “Everyone knew we were wading into a gray area,” Wylie later said. “It was an instance of if you don’t ask questions, you won’t get an answer you don’t like.” (Kogan denies any wrongdoing: “My view is that I’m being basically used as a scapegoat.”)

Nix now had his calling card. SCL would break into the $10 billion American political market by pitching itself as a “cutting-edge” consultancy using “behavioral microtargeting”—that is, influencing voters based not on their demographics but on their personalities—and sophisticated data modeling to win elections. His timing couldn’t have been better.

3. “Marketing materials aren’t given under oath.”

One day in 2013, a knockabout Republican political consultant named Mark Block and his colleague boarded a flight from Los Angeles to New York. As the plane took off, they got to talking with the man seated next to them, an ex-military officer who mentioned he worked as a subcontractor for a company seeking US political clients. “They do cyberwarfare for elections,” the subcontractor said. Block dozed off as his colleague and her seatmate continued to chat. When they landed, his colleague told him excitedly that they needed to talk to a guy named Alexander Nix.

Not long after, they met with Nix in a conference room in the Willard InterContinental hotel, a stone’s throw from the White House. The meeting lasted more than six hours, Block recalls, as Nix described how they could use personality data and psychographics in American campaigns. “By the time he was done, I’m going like, ‘Holy shit,’” Block told me. “I had been aware of what Obama had done…But this seemed to be light-years ahead.”

At a subsequent meeting Block attended, Nix was introduced to Rebekah Mercer, who was quickly becoming one of the biggest donors in Republican politics. Bekah, as she’s known to friends, is the middle daughter of Robert Mercer, a billionaire computer scientist who pioneered the use of algorithms in investing at the Long Island-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. Bekah is the political animal of the Mercer family, and in the late 2000s and early 2010s she plowed $35 million from her family foundation into conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society, and the Heartland Institute. The Mercers also invested a reported $10 million in Breitbart News in 2011. They’ve donated millions to Republican candidates and super-PACs, from Mitt Romney and Herman Cain to a congressional candidate in Oregon named Arthur Robinson, who caught Robert Mercer’s attention with a pseudoscientific newsletter in which he argued that small amounts of nuclear radiation have health benefits.

Quid Pro Mercer

How the megadonors have leveraged their political spending into profits for their data firm

Olivia Exstrum
The Mercers had attended the semiannual donor retreats organized by Charles and David Koch and had, according to a source familiar with their political work, invested in the Kochs’ data venture, Themis (named for the Greek goddess of wisdom and order), which was supposed to close the gap with Democrats in the data arms race. But after Romney’s loss in 2012, the Mercers were fed up. Bekah Mercer turned heads at a 2012 postmortem event at the University Club in Manhattan when she excoriated the Romney campaign for its lackluster data operation. According to people familiar with the Mercers’ thinking, Bekah and her father set out to find their own data geniuses.

Over lunch in Manhattan, Bekah listened intently as Nix gave his pitch. When he finished, she said, “I really want you to tell this to my dad.” She gave him an address with instructions to meet later that day. At the appointed time, Nix and Block arrived at a grungy sports bar on the Hudson River, north of the city. “We’re going like, ‘What the fuck?’” Block says. Bekah texted to say she and her father would soon arrive. Moments later, Sea Owl, the Mercer family’s 203-foot superyacht, pulled up to the dock behind the sports bar.

Aboard the yacht, Nix took a seat next to Robert Mercer, opened his Mac, and launched into his spiel again. Bekah sat next to her father on the couch. Behind them stood Steve Bannon, the investment banker turned Hollywood producer and conservative activist who took over Breitbart News after the death of Andrew Breitbart. Whatever Nix told the Mercers that day in 2013, it worked: They agreed to invest a reported $15 million in a new company that would be the face of SCL’s American political work. Bannon was given a seat on the board and a stake in the new company to help, as Nix later said, the firm navigate the US political scene. Nix installed himself in Mercerworld, presenting himself as Bekah Mercer’s political guru and taking meetings at the Breitbart Embassy, the Capitol Hill row house that served as the conservative website’s offices and Bannon’s crash pad. The company was incorporated in Delaware on December 31, 2013. The name was a mix of old and new: Cambridge Analytica.

But if the Mercers had paid closer attention to a test run of Nix’s venture in the 2013 Virginia governor’s race, they might have reconsidered going into business with SCL. A PAC, the Middle Resolution, had paid Nix’s company several hundred thousand dollars that year for a list of persuadable voters to help elect Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who was running for governor. Months passed, and the list never arrived. When the group’s founder, Bob Bailie, demanded the list, Nix asked for more money and Bailie cut bait. Another Virginia-based group, Americans for Limited Government, then paid SCL $100,000 to create a list of suburban female voters who traditionally supported Democrats but might be swayed to vote for Cuccinelli if shown the right message. Late in the race, the group’s canvassers took Nix’s list into the field and returned with a perplexing result: The people on it were already Cuccinelli supporters. The higher-ups at Americans for Limited Government asked another firm to analyze the list. It turned out SCL had handed them a roster of die-hard Republicans.

Despite these early missteps, Cambridge Analytica quickly signed on a host of new clients thanks to the Mercers, who leveraged their position as megadonors to effectively strong-arm politicians into using their new firm. “It was the Mercers that made people work with us,” an early Cambridge employee told me. Cambridge boasted eight clients at the federal level in 2013 and 2014, and members of the Mercer family have supplied financial backing to each of them, including to five during that election cycle. One was former Ambassador John Bolton’s super-PAC, a potential vehicle for a presidential run. During the 2014 midterms, Robert Mercer gave $1 million to the group, which soon paid Cambridge more than $340,000 to develop Cambridge’s personality-based targeting on the issue of national security. It was an odd arrangement: Recipients of Mercer money would turn around and pay a vendor partly owned by the Mercers. (Rebekah Mercer did not respond to requests for comment.)

“Maybe [hacked information] was actually given to a campaign to help with the microtargeting. That’s why I think the role of Cambridge Analytica…needs to be looked at very carefully.”
Cambridge Analytica’s work in the 2014 midterms received mixed reviews. A consultant for Thom Tillis’ US Senate race in North Carolina singled out for praise a Cambridge contractor who had embedded with the campaign. But in other instances, the firm’s seemingly weak grasp of American politics turned off operatives. Once, a Cambridge employee appeared unaware what a precinct was. In another case, according to a prominent Republican consultant, Cambridge proposed influencing Republican voters living overseas by creating a model that targeted all absentee voters, suggesting that the firm didn’t realize that people who live in the United States can also vote absentee.

The most common criticism I heard about Nix was that he habitually overpromised and underdelivered. According to a person who worked with him, Nix had a saying: “Marketing materials aren’t given under oath.” (Nix, Cambridge, and SCL did not respond to a detailed list of questions for this story.)

But Nix and his company used their work helping to elect Tillis and another Mercer-backed candidate, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, as a steppingstone. Cambridge explored new corporate clients, pitching the Colorado-based DISH Network. (“DISH does not have, nor has it ever had, a business relationship with Cambridge Analytica,” a spokesman said.)

Perhaps inspired by Bannon, whom Wylie described to the Washington Post as “Nix’s boss,” the company began testing messages designed to tap into immigration fears, anti-government sentiment, and an affinity for strongmen—“build the wall,” “drain the swamp,” “race realism” (a euphemism for rolling back civil rights protections). It also surveyed opinions about Russian President Vladimir Putin. It seemed as if they were getting ready for a presidential campaign—but which one?

4. “They’ve gotten the wool pulled over their eyes”

At 8:05 p.m. on March 22, 2015, Ted Cruz’s personal Twitter account posted a message: “Tonight around midnight there will be some news you won’t want to miss. Stay tuned…” There wasn’t much suspense—Cruz had effectively launched his presidential bid the day he arrived in the Senate two years earlier, but now he would make it official.

At midnight, the senator’s team in Houston would turn on the campaign website built by Cambridge Analytica. Then, at 12:01 a.m.…nothing. “We couldn’t even get the website up,” one former Cruz staffer told me. Eight excruciating minutes passed before Cruz simply sent another tweet: “I’m running for President and I hope to earn your support!”

It was a harbinger of things to come. Interviews with eight people who worked on the Cruz campaign reveal a litany of disputes with Nix. As the campaign’s frustrations mounted, it winnowed the number of Cambridge staffers in Houston from 12 to 3.

Cruz’s campaign did, however, employ Cambridge’s psychographic models, especially in the run-up to Iowa. According to internal Cambridge memos, the firm devised four personality types of possible Cruz voters—“timid traditionalists,” “stoic traditionalists,” “temperamental” people, and “relaxed leaders.” The memos laid out how the campaign should talk to each group about Cruz’s marquee issues, such as abolishing the IRS or stopping the Iran nuclear deal. A timid traditionalist, the memo said, was someone who was “highly emotional” but valued “order and structure in their lives.” For this kind of person, an “Abolish the IRS” message should be presented as something that “will bring more/restore order to the system.” Recommended images included “a family having a nice moment together, with a smaller image representing Washington off to the side—representing that a small state makes for better private moments.” But for a temperamental type, the suggested image was a “young man tossing away a tax return and taking the key of his motorbike to head out for a ride.”

Almost two months before the Iowa caucus, the Guardian reported that Cambridge and the Cruz campaign were using unauthorized Facebook data—an early indication of what Chris Wylie would later reveal in full. In response, Facebook told Cambridge to delete any Facebook data it held. Wylie says that while he deleted the data in his possession, he merely filled out a form and sent it back to Facebook certifying that he’d deleted the information. Facebook, he adds, never verified whether he actually had. A former Cruz staffer told me that well after the Guardian report, he could still use Cambridge’s Facebook data to build voter models.

Doug Chayka
The Cruz campaign eked out a victory in Iowa, and Nix was quick to take credit during an interview on Fox News. Whether Cambridge’s psychographics played any part in Cruz’s win is debatable: When the firm began using these techniques on December 1, two months before the caucus, Cruz was polling at 28 percentage points in Iowa. From there to caucus day, his numbers fluctuated in the range between 23 and 32 percent. Contrary to Nix’s claim that Cruz was languishing in the single digits until Cambridge came along, the candidate was already well on his way to winning when Cambridge’s secret sauce kicked in. “If we weren’t using the personality stuff until that point in time,” a former Cruz official says, “then Nix can’t credibly make the argument that it mattered, right?”

Adding to suspicions about whether Cambridge’s personality profiling worked as claimed was the fact that the company refused to share any of its underlying models. Cambridge advised the campaign on how best to deliver Cruz’s message to “stoic traditionalists” and “relaxed leaders,” but it wouldn’t divulge how it came up with those personality types in the first place. “They’re the least transparent company in the business,” a former Cruz staffer told me. Nor did Cambridge seem to understand the fundamentals of how a presidential campaign operated: Two weeks out from the South Carolina primary, Cruz’s data team discovered that the company hadn’t updated the voter database feeding its models in seven months. The result: In a primary where the victory margin could be in the low thousands, there were 70,000 people Cruz wasn’t targeting because his data was stale. “How fucked up is that?” the former Cruz staffer told me. “That’s political malpractice.” Cruz finished third in South Carolina. After the opening four states, he stopped using Cambridge’s personality-profiling models.

The company’s lackluster performance on the Cruz campaign didn’t stop Nix from walking onstage at the Concordia Summit and taking credit for Cruz’s second-place finish in the nomination fight. Word of his speech spread in Cruz circles, and campaign alums watched the video of Nix and scoffed. “Most of that’s bullshit or things we designed on the campaign,” one senior Cruz staffer told me. “Everybody has respect for the Mercers. But they’ve gotten the wool pulled over their eyes.”

5. “The phenomenon Donald Trump”

The Cruz campaign was still in the process of unwinding when Cambridge, following the lead of its investors, the Mercers, offered its services to the Trump campaign. Cambridge had previously reached out to Trump’s team, but his advisers didn’t want to hire the firm if it was also working for his rivals. Now, this was no longer an issue. Nix sent three employees to Texas to meet with Brad Parscale, Trump’s head of digital operations, who had no political experience and had gotten to know the Trump family while building websites for their company. (Parscale was recently named Trump’s 2020 campaign manager.)

As Nix courted the Trump campaign, he came up with an idea to boost the GOP nominee-in-waiting—one that was more in line with the political dirty tricks he and his colleagues would later discuss with Channel 4’s undercover reporter. WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange had recently told a British TV station that he had come into possession of internal emails belonging to senior Clinton campaign officials—the result of a cyberattack later revealed to be the work of Russian hackers. Nix reached out to Assange via his speaking agency, seeking a meeting. Nix reportedly hoped to get access to the emails and help Assange share them with the public—that is, he wanted to weaponize the information. According to both Nix and Assange, the WikiLeaks founder passed on his offer.

RELATED: A Groundbreaking Case May Force Controversial Data Firm Cambridge Analytica to Reveal Trump Secrets

Nevertheless, by late June Nix had landed a contract with the Trump team. At first, a handful of Cambridge employees set up shop in San Antonio, where Parscale was running Trump’s digital operation out of his marketing firm’s offices. But Matt Oczkowski, Cambridge’s head of product, was eventually put in charge of the San Antonio office after Parscale relocated to campaign headquarters in Trump Tower.

What exactly Cambridge Analytica did for Trump remains murky, though in the days after the election, Nix’s firm blasted out one press release after another touting the “integral” and “pivotal” role it played in Trump’s shocking upset. Nix later told Channel 4’s undercover reporter that Cambridge deserved much of the credit for Trump’s win. “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy,” he said. Another Cambridge executive suggested the firm had delivered Trump victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—states crucial to his ultimate win. “When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes but won the Electoral College vote, that’s down to the data and the research.”

Cambridge helped run an anti-Hillary Clinton online ad campaign for a Mercer-funded super-PAC that paid the company $1.2 million. The ads stated that Clinton “might be the first president to go to jail” and echoed conspiracy theories about her health. But according to multiple Republican sources familiar with Cambridge’s work for Trump, the firm played at best a minor role in Trump’s victory. Parscale has said that $5 million of the $5.9 million the Trump campaign paid Cambridge was for a large TV ad buy. When Cambridge bungled that—some of the ads wound up running in the District of Columbia, a total waste of money—the firm was not used for future ad buys. During an interview with 60 Minutes last fall, Parscale dismissed the company’s psychographic methods: “I just don’t think it works.” Trump’s secret strategy, he said, wasn’t secret at all: The campaign went all-in on Facebook, making full use of the platform’s advertising tools. “Donald Trump won,” Parscale said, “but I think Facebook was the method.”

Nix, however, seemed determined to capitalize on Trump’s victory. Cambridge opened a new office a few blocks from the White House, where Bannon would soon take on his new role as Trump’s chief political strategist. (Bannon retained his stake in the firm, valued between $1 million and $5 million, until April 2017, months after Trump took office.) SCL, its UK-based affiliate, eventually relocated its global headquarters from London to Arlington, Virginia, and began chasing government work, quickly landing a $500,000 State Department contract to monitor the impact of foreign propaganda. scl briefly signed on Lt. General Michael Flynn as an adviser and later hired a former Flynn associate to run its DC office.

“Alexander was always entertaining,” a former colleague says. “In the end, he will always hang himself.”

But even as Nix jetted around the globe and Cambridge opened new offices in Brazil and Malaysia, the company found itself with few allies in the United States. Trump campaign alums and Republican Party staffers distanced themselves from the company—especially after news broke last October that Nix had communicated with Assange. “We were proud to have worked with the RNC and its data experts and relied on them as our main source for data analytics,” Michael Glassner, the Trump campaign’s executive director, said in a statement released in response to these reports. “Any claims that voter data from any other source played a key role in the victory are false.”

By late 2017, after giving every indication that Cambridge Analytica intended to be a major player in American politics, Nix told Forbes the firm was no longer “chasing any US political business,” a decision he framed as a strategic move. “There’s going to be literally dozens and dozens of political firms [working in 2018], and we thought that’s a lot of mouths to feed and very little food on the table.” This seemed dubious—working on a winning presidential race is a golden ticket that most consultants would dine out on for years. In reality, Cambridge Analytica’s reputation for spotty work had circulated widely among Democratic and Republican operatives, who were also put off by Nix’s grandstanding and self-promotion. Mark Jablonowski, a partner at the firm DSPolitical, told me that there was “basically a de facto blacklist” of the firm and “a consensus Cambridge Analytica had overhyped their supposed accomplishments.” Perhaps even worse for a company that had relied on its billionaire patrons to open doors to new clients, the Mercers ceased “flogging for” Cambridge, according to Doug Watts, the former Ben Carson staffer.

For any upstart company, this would have constituted a crisis. But being shunned from the American political scene, it turned out, was just the start of Cambridge’s problems.

6. “I am aware how this looks”

Nix was near his London office when a Channel 4 correspondent confronted him. “Have you ever used entrapment in the past?” the reporter asked, thrusting a microphone in Nix’s face. “Is it time for you to abandon your political work?”

Captured on tape musing about entrapment and spreading untraceable propaganda, accused of misappropriating Facebook data to meddle with the minds of American voters—by March 20, scandal had reached Nix’s doorstep. He brushed past the reporter and into his building.

“I am aware how this looks,” Nix said in a statement. He explained that the explosive comments he and his colleagues had made to an undercover reporter were untrue. They were just “playing along” with “ludicrous hypothetical scenarios” proposed by a prospective client. His company, meanwhile, claimed that it did not “use or hold data from Facebook profiles.” By the end of the day, Cambridge Analytica had suspended Nix pending an investigation, and he had offered to resign if it would spare the company. “Alexander was always entertaining,” a former colleague told me. “In the end, he will always hang himself.”

The revelations about Cambridge Analytica’s alleged political tricks and shady data mining added to a growing list of problems the company was already facing. A few months earlier, in December, Nix had appeared before the House Intelligence Committee—though not in person. The panel’s Republicans, who ran the committee’s Russia probe with an eye toward minimizing any political damage to the president, arranged for Nix to beam in by video link. One topic of discussion was Nix’s outreach to WikiLeaks. His testimony remains secret, though he subsequently acknowledged approaching Assange in an effort to get his hands on “information that could be incredibly relevant to the outcome of the US election.” (In the Channel 4 undercover footage, Nix mocked the Intelligence Committee and said the Republican members asked him only three questions. “Five minutes—done,” he said, adding, “They’re politicians; they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works.”)

The committee’s Democrats had taken a keen interest in Trump’s data operation and Cambridge Analytica’s role in particular. Michael Bahar, a former general counsel on the committee who worked on the investigation before entering private practice, told me that one line of inquiry explored whether Cambridge Analytica had deployed its targeting tactics to more effectively spread Russian disinformation, and whether it had been enlisted to use data and analytics stolen from the Democratic National Committee by Russian-directed hackers. “Maybe [hacked information] was actually given to a campaign to help with the microtargeting,” Bahar says. “That’s why I think the role of Cambridge Analytica…needs to be looked at very carefully.”

Scrutiny will likely intensify given revelations that Cambridge’s Russian connections predated the 2016 election. Wylie, the former Cambridge employee, provided documents to the Observer revealing that the firm briefed Lukoil, the Russian oil company, on its behavioral microtargeting strategies. In a recent interview with CNN, Wylie drew a startling connection between the firm’s work and the Russian cyberattacks during the election. “I am concerned that we made Russia aware of the programs that we were working on,” he said, “and that might have sparked an idea that eventually led to some of the disinformation programs that we have seen.”

In addition to Nix, Democrats, according to a House Intelligence Committee memo, had hoped to call as witnesses Alex Tayler, Cambridge Analytica’s chief data officer; Julian Wheatland, the chairman of SCL; and Rebekah Mercer. Instead, in early March, committee Republicans hastily shut down the probe, though Democrats have vowed to continue investigating on their own, although without subpoena power. On March 21, the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), wrote to Aleksandr Kogan seeking an interview and requesting documents about his interactions with SCL and Cambridge Analytica. Chris Wylie has agreed to meet with committee Democrats.

The firm also remains a subject of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. According to the Wall Street Journal, Mueller last fall requested the emails of any Cambridge employee who worked on the Trump campaign. Nix’s unguarded comments to Channel 4 may be of interest. He said the firm relied on an encrypted email system that deleted messages two hours after they were read. “So then there’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”

Yet another avenue of interest for investigators is Cambridge’s possible role in a second 2016 election that featured covert Russian meddling—the British referendum to leave the European Union, known as Brexit. In 2016, Cambridge seemed to break its informal rule of forgoing UK political work when it unveiled a partnership with Leave.EU, the more extreme of the pro-Brexit campaigns, only to backtrack and deny any involvement in Brexit.

In February, as part of a broader inquiry into fake news, members of the British Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee grilled Nix for more than two hours. He unconvincingly blamed the announcement of the Leave.EU partnership on “a slightly overzealous PR consultant.” He claimed that he and his staff had “never worked with a Russian organization in Russia or any other country.” And he denied that his firm used Facebook data. After the latest round of revelations, Damian Collins, a conservative member of Parliament who chairs the committee, said Nix had “deliberately misled” his panel “by giving false statements” and vowed to further investigate.

The blowback from the Cambridge Analytica scandals also hit Facebook, which faced a torrent of criticism for its lax handling of users’ data. The company’s stock price tumbled by 7 percent, losing more than $50 billion in value, and the Federal Trade Commission reportedly launched an investigation into its data practices. The hashtag #DeleteFacebook trended on Twitter. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally broke his silence, issuing a statement admitting to a “breach of trust” between Facebook and its users.

Yet, critics wondered, just how many times had their trust been breached? Cambridge Analytica was hardly alone in hoovering up user data. And how exactly were Cambridge Analytica’s psychographic techniques different from Facebook’s core business model—tapping into the vast amounts of data it collects on its users to guide hypertargeted advertising, be it for shoe companies or political campaigns or dubious fake news sites.

By most accounts, Cambridge Analytica’s main feat of political persuasion was convincing a group of Republican donors, candidates, and organizations to hand over millions of dollars. (A company called Emerdata that lists Nix as a director recently added Rebekah Mercer and another Mercer daughter to its board, suggesting that Nix hasn’t fallen out with all his GOP patrons.) But Cambridge’s controversial foray into US politics spawned larger questions about how our social-media habits can be turned against us, and how companies such as Facebook hold more power over our lives—the ability to shape public conversation, even political outcomes—than many people are comfortable with. Whether or not Cambridge Analytica survives, data about our personality types, our predilections, our hopes and fears—information we unwittingly divulge via status updates, tweets, likes, and photos—will increasingly be used to target us as voters and consumers, for good and ill, and often without our knowledge. These tactics will facilitate the spread of fake news and disinformation and make it easier for foreign interests to intervene in our elections—whether they are Russian trolls or British chancers. ... rt-mercer/

Cambridge Analytica’s Trial Runs in the Developing World
By Josh Marshall | March 23, 2018 7:48 pm

One of the most telling and interesting threads of the Cambridge Analytica story is something that gets mentioned in most of the big pieces but is seldom a focus of attention. Most of the algorthms, techniques and strategies the company eventually deployed against the UK and the US were first used for elections operations in developing countries, what we once called the Third World. The reason is key: these countries had far less legal and technical infrastructure to defend themselves against these kinds of attacks. It was basically anything goes. And if someone got upset it didn’t matter all that much since these countries are off the main arteries of global news flows and have little capacity to uncover or hold to account a shadowy British company which is actually a subsidiary of a company wedded to the British defense establishment.

This pattern has a long and ugly pedigree. There are numerous examples and they are mostly part of the story of colonialism. Hannah Arendt and others long ago noted that the barbarity that was unleashed in Europe in the first and second world wars didn’t emerge from nowhere. Many of the tools of total warfare, concentration camps, genocide, theories master races and sub-humanity in addition to various forms of propaganda all had origins and backstories the various European powers had developed, fine tuned and deployed in their respective colonies. The explosion of the World Wars had many roots. But a key one was that the various colonial powers suddenly turned those tools loose on each other. Immiseration and mass murder got a muted press at best in the colonies. It was quite different in the colonial center. Just as significantly, in Europe the powers were more or less evenly matched. Tools first developed in the peripheries were now deployed in the center in what the powers perceived as life or death struggles for survival. The violence was extreme, stalemated and thus protracted.

There were other more ambiguous examples of the same pattern. A closeted gay man like the hugely influential British Imperialist Cecil Rhodes (Rhodes Scholar, Rhodesia, De Beers, et al.) could live his life more openly in southern Africa than he ever could in the imperial metropolis. Different rules applied in colonies and colonial center.

I’ve mentioned in other posts that we should hold a question mark over just how effective these psychographic profiles and algorithms really were and are. Just because they go by names like “psy-ops” and “information warfare” doesn’t mean they’re necessarily more effective than the strategies and tools employed by major US advertising and PR agencies. Some layer of this is salesmanship and flimflam by defense contractors hawking their wares. But companies involved here got contracts to mount these operations in US/UK combat theaters like Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of what Cambridge Analytica was doing was taking those tools, taking that experience and redirecting it against elections in the US and UK home countries themselves.

There’s already been a decent amount of reporting about how Facebook has been used by the government of Myanmar to organize and incite its ethnic cleansing/mass expulsion of its Rohingya minority. To date, to the best of my knowledge, these storylines have not been woven together. I have mainly seen it treated as simply something the Myanmar government has been able to do since Facebook is such a ubiquitous and in many cases sole means of communications in the country and it’s such a fertile ground for fake news. Given what we now know about Cambridge Analytica’s use of the platform, Facebook’s promiscuous and indifferent polices and the fact that so many of these schemes got dry runs in emerging democracies in Africa, Asia and Central America, that whole story seems worthy of a much closer examination. Just what was Facebook’s role? And here I mean, not just the platform in some generic sense but the company itself, its policies and various operates.

We pay close attention to these broad themes and overarching elements of story while piecing our way through the particulars. Russian psy-ops operations in Ukraine in 2014 prefigured Russian efforts further afield in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Cambridge Analytica’s campaign operations in Nigeria in 2015 looks much like what happened in 2016 in the US a year later, with hacked emails and the rest. “It was the kind of campaign that was our bread and butter,” an ex-CA employee told The Guardian. “We’re employed by a billionaire who’s panicking at the idea of a change of government and who wants to spend big to make sure that doesn’t happen.” (Notably, in Nigeria, Cambridge Analytica’s candidate lost.) What began as military operations are migrated into the civilian spheres, often into the societies whose governments originally spawned them. Tools and tactics are trial-runned in countries like Nigeria where companies like Cambridge Analytica can operate with impunity and then brought home. This isn’t simply a form of blowback. State tools are being privatized and the wielded by billionaires in the home countries.

Whether its Russia and its aggressive us of information warfare or private billionaire backed operations like Cambridge Analytica operating as global criminal enterprises, they are all viruses attacking the rule of law and democratic self-government not just in the US but across the globe. ... re-1118719
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby Grizzly » Sat Mar 24, 2018 2:01 am

If Barthes can forgive me, “What the public wants is the image of passion Justice, not passion Justice itself.”
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby Grizzly » Sat Mar 24, 2018 5:34 am

Well Fuck, since I can't seem to edit my post above. Here's a question: Why the Fuck would they have announced they were getting a search warrant for CA to the public? Further.... ... _of_their/
Cambridge Analytica moving "boxes" out of their office before the search warrant
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Mar 24, 2018 7:59 am

Obama did not use data that Cambridge Analytica stole from 50 million people

trump and his buddies did use stolen data from 50 million people with help from his son in law Kushner and Steve Bannon

just saying because your graphic is a wee bit confusing I'm sure you didn't mean to conflate the committed a did not

is it possible to get the source of that graphic?

Polly Sigh

"Nevins also received from Guccifer internal details re congressional districts in KY, PA, TX, VA, & WV. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC closely tied to Paul Ryan, used the stolen info in attack ads against Dems."

Recall @NancyPelosi Aug 2016 memo to Paul Ryan: NRCC's use of docs stolen by Russians plays into the hands of US' most dangerous adversary...makes the @GOP complicit in aiding RU gov't in its effort to influence US elections.
Ryan did not reply.



Russian hacker Guccifer sent DNC data ➔ FL GOP operative, whose analysis he sent to Roger Stone

Guccifer's text msgs w/ FL GOP operative whose analysis of stolen Dem voter info was sent to Roger Stone.


TheBeat w/Ari Melber

New: We obtained the secret memo from Rudy Giuliani's law firm directly warning one of Trump's biggest donors, Rebekah Mercer, Steve Bannon and Trump data firm CEO Alexander Nix about breaking U.S. law.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby JackRiddler » Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:06 pm

The Obama 2012 campaign did use the entire FB data store at the time, however, or at least this is the claim made in the past and reinforced just yesterday by one of its data directors, who spoke proudly of her team's accomplishment: "we were actually able to ingest the entire social network, social network of the U.S."

This is not about drawing irrelevant equivalences, it's about understanding the true extent of the datamining landscape. CA is an evil subsidiary of an evil military contractor owned by an evil billionaire doing evil things, etc. etc., but the greater problem by a factor of millions lies in the hidden and unaccountable reach of the panoptic data gathered by FB and the Internet giants -- in anyone's hands, which is where it ends up inevitably. Here is the relevant excerpt from the transcript from a very informative Democracy Now! segment on the CA/FB story.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me go to Carol Davidsen, who served as Obama’s campaign director of integration and media analytics during the 2012 campaign. In this video, posted online in 2015, she described how the campaign used Facebook.

CAROL DAVIDSEN: The Obama campaign just did this on a digital—in a digital level, on a much larger level, but we were actually able to ingest the entire social network, social network of the U.S. That’s on Facebook, which is most people. Where this gets complicated is, that freaked Facebook out, right? So they shut off the feature. Well, the Republicans never built an app to do that. So, the data is out there. You can’t take it back, right? So the Democrats have this information. So, when they look at a voter file and someone comes to them, they can immediately be like, “Oh, here are all the other people that they know, and here are people that they can help us persuade, because they’re really good friends with this person.” The Republicans do not have that information and will not get that information.

AMY GOODMAN: So that was Carol Davidsen, Obama campaign’s director of integration and media analytics during the 2012 campaign, speaking in 2015. Well, on Sunday, she wrote on Twitter, quote, “Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing. They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Mar 24, 2018 2:47 pm

Human rights lawyer @ravinaik will soon be taking @profcarroll's landmark case against Cambridge Analytica to the high court. Stay tuned...

We’re taking on Cambridge Analytica in a legal fight for data rights
Ravi Naik
It can’t be left to regulators. Now that Silicon Valley’s myth of apolitical tech is in tatters, we must all be vigilant
Fri 23 Mar 2018 13.28 EDT Last modified on Fri 23 Mar 2018 13.29 EDT

The offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images
The movement for data rights has hit a landmark moment. In early 2017, I was instructed by a number of individuals who were concerned about the way their data was being used. They feared their personal data had been compiled and amalgamated into profiles based some on their most personal beliefs – their political opinions. Those profiles were processed by the notorious Cambridge Analytica, and seemingly by its parent company, SCL. We have now filed a claim in the British courts on behalf of a US citizen, David Carroll, to seek full disclosure of the data held by Cambridge Analytica and SCL. This will be the first case against these companies and will shed further light on what they were doing.

Our clients are seeking to understand the extent of the data held about them without their knowledge or consent, and to know whether that data was subsequently manipulated, and if so, in what way and for what purpose. They also hope to discover the breadth of information needed to make sophisticated predictions about political beliefs – a revelation that will be of wide interest, not just to our clients.

The case will also determine something more fundamental: the boundaries of permissible use of personal political data. And in turn, our clients will seek to ensure that such sensitive personal information is in future better protected. While it is increasingly accepted in the digital age that individuals enter into a bargain with their data in using the internet, the true costs of this exchange are only now becoming clear.

In the context of revelations about what appears to be the untrammelled use of data in political campaigns, our clients’ case will set the first train of accountability in motion. This case – and the movement behind it – is about more than just holding companies like Cambridge Analytica and SCL to account. It seeks to demonstrate the importance of data rights, and how steps can be taken to control the use of our own information. For too long, those rights have been ignored in the name of innovation. . This is a critical time in ensuring that individuals have a say in how their online worlds are governed.

It is now apparent that some information is too precious, too personal, to be left without personal control. After the claim was issued the Observer, the New York Times and Channel 4 News ran stories that have shown that our clients’ concerns may be well placed.

The whistleblower Christopher Wiley has revealed that Cambridge Analytica retained huge data sets on individuals, including data alleged to have been harvested from Facebook. Cambridge Analytica’s own advertising claims that it possesses a unique set of 5,000 individual data points on each adult in America. That data was said to have been used to influence the US electorate through “psychographic” algorithms. Cambridge Analytica boasted that this algorithm had carried Donald Trump to victory.

The ultimate parent company of Cambridge Analytica, SCL, openly states that it has “conducted behavioural change programmes in over 60 countries”. It also claims to conduct “military influence campaigns” using “alternative narratives and credible perspectives”. The suggestion is that these companies could create a political consensus by influencing behaviour.

Algorithms and machine-learning software are the new “weapons” of political change. The internet is now full of algorithms that can analyse and predict human behaviour, even when information is incomplete. This has been achieved through the development of opaque software that, in the words of the Artificial Intelligence expert François Chollet, determines “which articles we read, who we keep in touch with, whose opinions we read, whose feedback we get”.

Those who control algorithms have great power. In particular, decisions on what is promoted to the top of a newsfeed can have tremendous influence. The feeds people are shown on social media sites are highly personal. What you see in your feed is algorithmically tailored to your identity and your interaction history with the site. This is a potent tool for targeting individuals, exemplified by the revelations concerning Cambridge Analytica.

The idea that these platforms could evolve to affect politics goes against the idea of “apolitical” technology cherished by those in Silicon Valley. Indeed, it is only belatedly, and after the 2016 US presidential election, that the tech giants have revealed the extent of the manipulation of their use. Facebook initially labelled it “crazy” that its platform could have any influence on the election. It eventually confirmed that it was able to identify 80,000 posts on its platform that it believes were linked to Russia, which were viewed by up to 126 million people during the campaign.

The recent revelations about the extent to which Facebook data was seemingly abused by private companies has served to aggravate these concerns. The internet giants have been too slow to react when data breaches have been brought to their attention. The latest events should at least be an awakening for these companies to put data rights at the forefront of their platforms.

While regulatory and legislative developments such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) may enhance individual protection over data, they represent an evolution in personal rights rather than a revolution. The revolution will come only when people can access and take control over their data and assert their rights to privacy, as our clients have done in their case against Cambridge Analytica and SCL.

As our lives increasingly translate into electronic media and data, the question of who controls our data and what rights we have over it is not just for regulators or to be to technology companies. It is becoming as fundamental to us as any other human right.

• Ravi Naik is a solicitor and partner at Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors, where he heads the public law department ... are_btn_tw

Cambridge Analytica's links to official Vote Leave campaign

Revealed: the ties that bind Canadian data firm AIQ to Leave campaign in referendum
Role of remote data affiliate raises questions over relationship between Brexit groups
Carole Cadwalladr and Mark Townsend
Sat 24 Mar 2018 14.18 EDT Last modified on Sat 24 Mar 2018 14.44 EDT

Cambridge Analytica has undisclosed links to the Canadian digital firm AggregateIQ that played a pivotal role in the official Vote Leave campaign in 2016, which was headed by the environment secretary Michael Gove and the foreign secretary Boris Johnson, the Observer has learned.

Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica employee turned whistleblower, has revealed that as well as playing a part in setting up the firm – which is now facing increasing scrutiny from investigators on both sides of the Atlantic over its role in harvesting Facebook data – he was also a central figure in setting up AIQ, which accounted for 40% of Vote Leave’s campaign budget.

The Observer first disclosed connections between the firms a year ago when it published details of an intellectual property licence that linked AIQ and Cambridge Analytica.

Mark Zuckerberg apologises for Facebook's 'mistakes' over Cambridge Analytica
Read more
In public, the official Leave campaign and Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU campaign were quite separate and appeared hostile to each other. But the connections between the two data firms raise fresh questions about possible overlaps between the two campaigns.

Wylie said that, in 2016, the relationship went far beyond that. Although AIQ and Cambridge Analytica appeared separate, the two were bound by a skein of threads so intimate that some Cambridge Analytica staff referred to the Canadian data firm as a “department” within the company. Wylie said that the two businesses shared the same underlying technology.

“AIQ wouldn’t exist without me,” he said. “When I became research director for SCL [the parent company of Cambridge Analytica] we needed to rapidly expand our technical capacity and I reached out to a lot of people I had worked with in the past.”

That included Jeff Silvester, his former boss, who lived in Wylie’s home town – Victoria in British Columbia. Wylie suggested Silvester should work for the firm in London. “But he had just had a family and wasn’t keen to go on London,” he said.

AggregateIQ’s Zack Massingham, left, with Vote Leave’s Stephen Parkinson pictured in the campaign’s London office.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest AggregateIQ’s Zack Massingham, left, with Vote Leave’s Stephen Parkinson pictured in the campaign’s London office.
The Observer has seen an email from 11 August 2013 that Wylie sent to Silvester about SCL. “We mostly do psychological warfare work for Nato,” he said. “But a lot of projects involve a socio-political element.”

Silvester replied: “You need a Canadian office.”

He then set up AIQ with his business partner, Zack Massingham, to work on SCL and later Cambridge Analytica projects. “Essentially it was set up as a Canadian entity for people who wanted to work on SCL projects who didn’t want to move to London. That’s how AIQ got started: originally to service SCL and Cambridge Analytica projects,” said Wylie.

Last March, when the Observer started asking questions about the connection between Cambridge Analytica and AIQ, the former removed “SCL Canada” and Massingham’s phone number from its website and said that AIQ was a “former IT contractor”.

Cambridge Analytica is already under scrutiny for its work for Farage’s Leave.EU campaign, and AIQ is also involved in an investigation by the Electoral Commission into Vote Leave.

On Saturday the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham said that “AggregateIQ has not been especially co-operative with our investigation. We are taking further steps in that matter.”

The mystery of how Vote Leave even found AIQ, a firm with just 20 staff that operated 2,300 miles away out of a cramped office above an opticians in the provincial Canadian city of Victoria, was raised by the Observer last May.

Dom Cummings, the chief strategist for Vote Leave, told this newspaper that he found the firm “on the internet”. But cached searches show that AIQ had no internet presence at that time and a new source within Vote Leave has now come forward to say that Cummings had full knowledge of the connections between the two firms.

“The idea that Dom had no idea of AIQ’s connection to Cambridge Analytica is complete bullshit,” said the source. “It was a former Cambridge Analytica employee who made the introduction. He knew exactly how the two companies operated together. He knew they’d worked together on the [former candidate for the Republican nomination for president] Ted Cruz campaign and that they shared the same underlying technology,” said the source.

But Cummings told this newspaper yesterday: “Vote Leave data never went anywhere near Cambridge Analytica and your repeated attempts to show that Vote Leave and Cambridge Analytica were somehow secretly coordinating is not just without foundation but the opposite of the truth.”

Until 2016, AIQ had no clients other than Cambridge Analytica. The lack of a website, Wylie claims, was because at the time of the referendum it was operating almost as “an internal department of Cambridge Analytica. It didn’t have a website and no contact number. The only public contact number was SCL’s website.” However, AIQ says it has had a website since it was founded in 2013.

Wylie said that AIQ managed Cambridge Analytica’s technology platform – Ripon – and its databases. “Because AIQ was operating internally, almost as a department of Cambridge Analytica, it didn’t have a website and no contact number. The only public contact number was SCL’s website,” said Wylie.

Screengrab taken at 2pm on Tuesday from AIQ’s homepage. By Thursday, after the company was contacted by the Observer, it had been taken down. Photograph: AggregateIQ
He said AIQ also had its intellectual property owned by Cambridge Analytica. “AIQ often traded as SCL Canada for ages and although a technically separate company, the IP [intellectual property] was retained by Cambridge Analytica and SCL.

“They were the ones that took a lot of data that Cambridge Analytica would acquire and the algorithms they build and translated that into the actual physical targeting online, they [AIQ] were the bit that actually disseminated stuff. AIQ managed the Ripon platform, which is Cambridge Analytica’s platform, and built a lot of the tech that would connect the algorithms to social and online advertising networks.”

Wylie claims that the two entities, certainly during the time of the referendum campaign, were operating closely. “Among internal CA staff AIQ was referred to as ‘our Canadian office’. They were treated as a department within the company,” he said.

Cummings would later say: “Without a doubt, the Vote Leave campaign owes a great deal of its success to the work of AggregateIQ. We couldn’t have done it without them.” His quote, emblazoned on the AIQ website for more than a year, disappeared on Thursday.

Silvester said that Cambridge Analytica was not in contact with AIQ during the referendum campaign. “AIQ never worked or even communicated in any way with Cambridge Analytica or any other parties related to Cambridge Analytica with respect to the Brexit campaign. Any claim that we shared Vote Leave data with Cambridge Analytica or anyone else in any way is entirely false.”

He added: “AggregateIQ has always been 100% Canadian owned and operated.” ... are_btn_tw

"It was a scam. Vote Leave cheated"
Shahmir Sanni blows the whistle on the biggest campaign over-spending scheme Britain has ever seen

Shahmir Sanni, who worked for the official Vote Leave campaign, today breaks cover to raise concerns that the group behind the knife-edge 2016 vote in favour of Brexit – including key figures now working for Theresa May in Downing Street – may have broken the law by flouting referendum spending rules and then attempting to destroy evidence.

Sanni claims that a donation of £625,000 was made by Vote Leave to an independent referendum campaign organisation called BeLeave. Sanni says that the money, which was then channeled to a Canadian digital services firm, AggregateIQ, that has links to the controversial Cambridge Analytica, violated election regulations. The donation was sanctioned by the most senior figures in Vote Leave, including campaign director Dominic Cummings and CEO Matthew Elliott

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: 'We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles' – video ... are_btn_tw

Alice Stollmeyer

What you should know about Trump's new NatSec Advisor John #Bolton.

For American readers:

* VoteLeave is a pro-#Brexit campaign.
* VoteLeave worked with #CambridgeAnalytica.
* VoteLeave is under investigation by UK's Electoral Commission for dark money & dark ads.


Follow-up on #Brexit -- #Bolton :

VoteLeave was the official campaign org. Bolton was there with Hannan when the Brexit vote results came in.

LeaveEU is Nigel Farage's org.

H&F professed to hate each other, but they colluded.

They coordinated through Cambridge Analytica. ... 0962920448
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby Grizzly » Sat Mar 24, 2018 4:39 pm

JR wrote

This is not about drawing irrelevant equivalences, it's about understanding the true extent of the datamining landscape.

Indeed. But this relentless TRUMPRUSSIA, thing, with the DNC's inability to self reflect or admit the whole landscape system is not only corrupt. But they use it in the same manner the Trump team did; I have no doubts that Trumps side have done some criminal shit 'perhaps'* with Russia players, and certainly with psycographics, but DNC UK NATO MOD TRUMPRUSSIATRUMPRUSSIATRUMPRUSSIA!

-- Bernie should have won. Hillary wanted Trump because she thought she could easily beat him. She lost at her own game. With the help of a very British firm. which seems to get conveniently left out of this one sided discussion, because, TRUMPRUSSIATRUMPRUSSIATRUMPRUSSIA! :roll:

Image ... ce-machine
In 2006, a local pollster in Nepal was kidnapped by Maoist rebels while conducting opinion surveys on behalf of the American political strategist Stan Greenberg. The Maoists, who had been waging a long-running insurgency against the government, did not issue their typical ransom demands—money or weapons in exchange for the prisoner. No, they wanted the polling data that Greenberg’s team had collected, evidently to gauge the political climate in the country for themselves. The researchers eventually handed it over. In his book “Alpha Dogs,” the British journalist James Harding cites this story as an example of how the business of political campaigning is being remade, across the globe, by a profusion of fine-grained data about voters and their habits. Where the consultants of the nineteen-sixties and seventies obsessed over how to use television to beam ideal images of their clients into voters’ homes, today’s spinmasters hope that big data will allow them to manipulate voters’ deepest hopes and fears. “What’s the currency of the world now?” one of Greenberg’s partners asks Harding. “It’s not gold, it’s data. It’s the information.”

Twelve years later, the fixation on data as the key to political persuasion has exploded into scandal.

Wait! This just started with the Cheetoe, right!?? ... order-data
...on the digital front, the CLOUD Act has been snuck into a spending bill and passed. It gives both US and foreign authorities the power to harvest and wiretap data (stored anywhere in the world) from US-based companies without due process. Also included is the ability to enter agreements with other nations to do the same without regard for existing data privacy laws. IANAL, but I fear they just gave oppressive governments the world over unlimited power to weed out dissidents in exchange for being a part of the USG spying network.

It will be difficult to avoid falling prey to this even if you avoid using the usual suspects, given that US-based corporations like Amazon, Cloudflare and Google run almost everything from hosts to CDNs that make up the internet these days. (Heck, even this site is.)
Last edited by Grizzly on Sat Mar 24, 2018 8:37 pm, edited 3 times in total.
If Barthes can forgive me, “What the public wants is the image of passion Justice, not passion Justice itself.”
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Mar 24, 2018 4:46 pm


Data Firm Tied to Trump Campaign Talked Business With Russians
But Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge Analytica and develop the company’s voter-profiling technology, said Lukoil showed interest in how the company used data to tailor messaging to American voters.
Image ... ussia.html

Trump Parscale Chart
Chart below displays open-source information showing organizations and people connected to President Trump and Brad Parscale as of June 2017. Source links are provided below the chart. Also see SCL/Cambridge Analytica chart and Rosneft-Trump-Putin chart.

Cambridge Analytica: links to Moscow oil firm and St Petersburg university

Emma Graham-Harrison Sat 17 Mar 2018 17.59 EDT
Data company gave briefing to Moscow firm Lukoil, and the lecturer who developed the crucial algorithm worked for St Petersburg university ... are_btn_tw

Cambridge Analytica researcher touted data-mining in Russia speech ... index.html

Cambridge Analytica: links to Moscow oil firm and St Petersburg university ... university

Trump-linked data firm met with Russian executives: report ... executives

Cambridge Analytica began testing out pro-Trump slogans the same year Russia launched its influence operation targeting the 2016 election ... ies-2018-3

Cambridge Analytica chief appears to have misled Parliament on data and Russia ... ia-n857751

Did Cambridge Analytica Leverage Russian Disinformation for Trump?

The company has more ties to Russia and Russian interests than it admits.

Justin Hendrix March 21, 201812:05 PM
The Industry

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie, US President Donald Trump, and Cambridge Analytica's chief executive officer Alexander Nix.

This piece was originally published on Just Security, an online forum for analysis of U.S. national security law and policy.

In an age of conspiracy theories and internet hoaxes, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. In the last few days, a number of incredible claims were made about the shadowy firm Cambridge Analytica and its relationship to both Facebook and the Trump campaign that seem like a combination of Black Mirror and Burn After Reading. But drilling down into recent and past reporting shows the likelihood that Cambridge Analytica helped spur the Russian disinformation operation during the 2016 election.

A whistleblower—a former Cambridge Analytica employee named Christopher Wylie—revealed evidence that the firm had extracted the information of 50 million Facebook users, which it then employed in the data models it used to help elect Donald Trump. On the heels of Wylie’s revelations, the U.K.’s Channel 4 is in the midst of broadcasting a five-part exposé including undercover footage of recently suspended Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix offering to engage in not just microtargeting and data services, but also the dark arts of propaganda, entrapment, and other illicit tactics to win elections.

These revelations have provided evidence for a potential plot line perhaps stranger still. Despite its British roots, Cambridge Analytica was deeply tied to the Trump campaign. Was Cambridge Analytica a nexus for collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian election interference campaign? No evidence directly supports that theory yet. But what is known supports another theory: that Cambridge Analytica knowingly used Russian disinformation to help the Trump campaign win the 2016 election.

These revelations have provided evidence for a potential plot line perhaps stranger still.
Back in March 2017, McClatchy reported that the FBI investigation into Russia’s election interference was exploring whether far-right news operations, including Breitbart specifically, took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives in their spread of disinformation. What pattern of activity was suspicious? “Russian bots and internet trolls sought to propagate stories underground,” Mike Carpenter, a former senior Pentagon official during the Obama administration whose job focused on Russia told McClatchy. “Those stories got amplified by fringe elements of our media like Breitbart.” But Breitbart and the far-right media outlets were not the only ones to amplify the Russian disinformation. So did the Trump campaign’s inner circle. (See the October 2017 report by the Daily Beast, “Trump Campaign Staffers Pushed Russian Propaganda Days Before the Election.”)

During the period under the FBI’s investigation, Breitbart was bankrolled by the Mercer family and headed by Steve Bannon. At the time, the Mercer family also bankrolled Cambridge Analytica with a $15 million startup investment, and Bannon was installed as vice president and secretary of Cambridge Analytica from June 2014 to August 2016. Christopher Wylie described Bannon as Nix’s boss and said he approved all of the company’s spending. Bannon also considered himself enormously influential with Donald Trump at the time. In a private email to a colleague in August 2015, Bannon wrote, “I’m Trump’s campaign manager.” Bannon left both Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica in August 2016 to serve as the chief executive of the Trump campaign. The question is what role Cambridge Analytica, which boasted a deep hand in shaping the Trump campaign’s online information operations, played in helping leverage the Russian information—and whether it knew what it was doing.

Here are three reasons to question whether Cambridge Analytica may have helped the Trump campaign take advantage of Russian disinformation:

1. Cambridge Analytica/SCL is a global expert on disinformation—including of the Russian variety.

Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, Strategic Communications Laboratories, is a military contractor recognized as a global leader on the subject of disinformation and political influence. The company, for example, is currently working with the U.S. State Department on a $500,000 contract for countering ISIS propaganda. That expertise also extends to Russian information warfare and disinformation tactics. In 2015, SCL’s head of defense business Steve Tatham edited a Stratcom journal on subjects ranging from “Russia’s 21st Century Information Warfare” and “Memetic Warfare” to “Narrative and Social Media.” That same year, SCL was hired by NATO for training services on disinformation, including countering Russian information warfare.

As a director of SCL, Alexander Nix almost certainly would have been aware of Russian strategies and tactics. The question is how much he and Cambridge Analytica knew of the Russian election interference operation in the United States and when did they know it. Presumably, the management of the company were all well-aware of the Russian campaigns in Eastern Europe that presaged efforts to interfere in the Brexit referendum and the U.S. election. The Russian effort to sow discord and ultimately to help Donald Trump, we now know from years of news reports, started well before Trump publicly announced his candidacy. It is plausible Cambridge Analytica—itself apparently a propaganda outfit replete with messaging, creative services, and targeting capabilities in addition to black ops and an apparent knack for employing Ukrainian sex workers to secure damaging kompromat—closely tracked the Russian effort and considered how to leverage it on behalf of its client, Donald Trump. Indeed, both Cambridge Analytica and the Internet Research Agency developed strategies to drive up xenophobia and depress voter turnout amongst certain populations. Was this just a coincidence?

2. SCL/Cambridge Analytica has more ties to Russia and Russian interests than it admits, possibly giving it insights into Russian goals.

Alexander Nix told Parliament in recent hearings that Cambridge Analytica did not have any relationship with Russia or Russian companies. Consistent with other Trump campaign figures who denied contact with Russians only to later be exposed as liars, apparently Cambridge Analytica met at least three times in 2014 and 2015 with Kremlin-connected executives from the Russian oil giant Lukoil, who “showed interest” in using data to target messaging to American voters. Cambridge Analytica reportedly gave a slideshow presentation to the Russians “focus[ing] first on election disruption strategies used by Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL.” What’s more, according to the Channel 4 reports, SCL highlighted Russia on its client map. In July 2016, around the time that WikiLeaks posted hacked DNC emails, Mother Jones reports Nix was photographed posing with Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom. At the time of the photo, Nix had already attempted to get access to the hacked emails by contacting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Cambridge Analytica also enlisted Russian-American academic Aleksandr Kogan to mine the private Facebook user data that is the subject of the ongoing scandal. While an associate professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, Kogan received grants from the Russian government to research “stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks.” St. Petersburg was also home to the famous, recently indicted troll farm the Internet Research Agency. Did Kogan have any contact with Russian intelligence or the Internet Research Agency?

All of this raises questions: What was the full extent of Cambridge Analytica/SCL’s relationship to Russia and Russian companies? Was Cambridge Analytica/SCL ever informed about Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. politics? How much, if at all, did the two sides share with each other?

3. Donald Trump frequently repeated Russian disinformation during the campaign. Did Cambridge Analytica feed it to him or to others on the campaign team?

It was eerie how often Donald Trump, his family and his aides mimicked Russian disinformation during the 2016 election. “Some of the Trump campaign’s most prominent names and supporters, including Trump’s campaign manager, digital director, and son, pushed tweets from professional trolls paid by the Russian government in the heat of the 2016 election campaign,” the Daily Beast reported. Former FBI special agent Clint Watts, in Senate testimony last March, stated that “part of the reason active measures worked in this election is that the commander in chief has used Russian active measures at times, against his opponents.” He went on to detail occasions when the president and aides such as Paul Manafort aped themes that originated on Russian sites such as RT and Sputnik News, or Russian troll accounts on social media.

In the Channel 4 series, Alexander Nix suggested Cambridge Analytica played a significant role in the Trump campaign strategy. “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy,” Nix said during a secretly recorded meeting with the undercover reporter. By later in the summer, the Trump campaign team was essentially in the hands of individuals tied to Cambridge Analytica: funded by Robert and Rebekah Mercer, chaired by Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon, and advised by Michael Flynn, who disclosed that he was an adviser to Cambridge Analytica only after he was ousted from the White House. Was there an active effort to channel Russian disinformation to the candidate and his surrogates?

In answering those questions, one would also want to explore Cambridge Analytica’s role not only directly in the Trump campaign, but also for Mercer-funded super PACs like “Make America Number 1.” In one instance, that super PAC produced an ad, which a Russian false account tweeted out, and Flynn then significantly amplified the Russian account’s tweet. A nonpartisan watchdog group has filed a complaint before the Federal Election Commission the Trump Campaign and Make America Number 1 engaged in illicit coordinated communications through use of Cambridge Analytica as a common vendor.

Whether anyone actively coordinated these messages is, of course, a matter of ongoing debate.
Whether anyone actively coordinated these messages is, of course, a matter of ongoing debate. The technology companies have seen the data, but they won’t say. The general counsels for Facebook, Twitter, and Google certainly gave strange replies when asked by California Rep. Jackie Speier last November whether they had investigated “who was mimicking who” when it came to online messages promoted by both the Trump campaign and Russia during the election. They suggested congressional investigators might be better placed to put two and two together.

But you don’t have to believe that there were other active forms of collusion to see a connection between Russian disinformation, Cambridge Analytica, and the Trump campaign.
It’s all too possible it was just a matter of leverage. Perhaps SCL/Cambridge Analytica, experts in the theory and practice of disinformation, observed what the Russians were up to and decided to use it to Trump’s advantage. A data scientist who started a quantitative hedge fund, Robert Mercer would certainly have understood the concept of using leverage to amplify gains—that’s how hedge funds make their money. Perhaps this bet wasn’t about money, but rather about targeted propaganda.

Or perhaps, the truth is stranger still. Christopher Wylie told the Washington Post on Tuesday that among the first things he did for Bannon and the Mercers in 2014 was to test American views on Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The only foreign thing we tested was Putin,” he told the Post. “It turns out, there’s a lot of Americans who really like this idea of a really strong authoritarian leader and people were quite defensive in focus groups of Putin’s invasion of Crimea.” ... trump.html

Last edited by seemslikeadream on Sat Mar 24, 2018 7:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Mar 24, 2018 5:36 pm

NEW reporting on Emerdata, the firm formed by SCL top brass to merge SCL & Cambridge Analytica into a "big new big data company" w/ Nix & Mercers, among others, as directors. Rebranding they thought no one would notice?
David Carroll

Watch @Channel4News @adavies4 on the found kompromat video from St Kitts, concerns that #Emerdata the new #SCL, and @ICOnews's struggle to get raid warrant this week. ... wC61P9qXCY

The Cambridge Analytica Files

The Brexit whistleblower: ‘Did Vote Leave use me? Was I naive' ... -analytica
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Re: Inside the World of Cambridge Analytica

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Mar 25, 2018 7:26 am

Cambridge Analytica ➡️ LUKOIL ➡️ [Baku] Agalarov ➡️ Trump

Polly Sigh

/Chaser/ Vagit Alekperov, head of LUKOIL since its inception, has very close ties to Trump business partner Aras Agalarov. Both men are from Baku and are big backers of Emin Agalarov's ex father-in-law, Ilham Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan [home to Trump Tower Baku].


Paula Chertok

Lukoil is a private Russian company that's been deployed as an instrument of the Kremlin in influence operations in Czech Rep & has been sanctioned for it. Cambridge Analytica and Kogan did political work for Lukoil. During Trump campaign, CA was in touch w/ Wikileaks.

Paula Chertok

Links Between Cambridge Analytica & Russia Emerge Despite Denials. Russian energy giant Lukoil received US voter data from CA after 2014 sanctions were imposed. Lukoil & its oligarch had the means & motive to undermine US & UK elections.… ... 20279.html

Paula Chertok

Lukoil's Russian oligarch *Alekperov* had the means & motive to pass Cambridge Analytica data to another Russian oligarch, Prigozhin, who funded the Kremlin propaganda troll operation.
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