Facebook Cuts Off Cambridge Analytica, Promises Further Investigation

As I noted in my post on Andrew McCabe’s firing, the far more important news of the weekend is that Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica’s access to its data.

As Facebook explained, back in 2015, Cambridge researcher Aleksandr Kogan harvested data on millions of Americans by getting them to willingly use his research app. When Facebook found out that he had handed the data off to two downstream companies (this detail is important), it made them delete the data based on developer user agreements.

In 2015, we learned that a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge named Dr. Aleksandr Kogan lied to us and violated our Platform Policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook Login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica, a firm that does political, government and military work around the globe. He also passed that data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc.

Like all app developers, Kogan requested and gained access to information from people after they chose to download his app. His app, “thisisyourdigitallife,” offered a personality prediction, and billed itself on Facebook as “a research app used by psychologists.” Approximately 270,000 people downloaded the app. In so doing, they gave their consent for Kogan to access information such as the city they set on their profile, or content they had liked, as well as more limited information about friends who had their privacy settings set to allow it.

Although Kogan gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels that governed all developers on Facebook at that time, he did not subsequently abide by our rules. By passing information on to a third party, including SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, he violated our platform policies. When we learned of this violation in 2015, we removed his app from Facebook and demanded certifications from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed. Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie all certified to us that they destroyed the data.

They now claim to have new information that CA didn’t delete the data (I have firsthand knowledge that Facebook knew of this at least a year ago, and these pieces argue Facebook knew even earlier).

Several days ago, we received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted. We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims. If true, this is another unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments they made. We are suspending SCL/Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan from Facebook, pending further information.

We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information. We will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens. We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior.

What changed is that the guy who operationalized all this data, Christopher Wylie, just came forward publicly. Here’s how Carole Cadwalladr, the Guardian reporter who has owned this story, describes Wylie.

Or, as Wylie describes it, he was the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindfuck tool”.

In 2014, Steve Bannon – then executive chairman of the “alt-right” news network Breitbart – was Wylie’s boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analytica’s investor. And the idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology – “information operations” – then turn it on the US electorate.

Wylie describes how he profiled Americans so they could tailor political ads.

[W]hile studying for a PhD in fashion trend forecasting, he came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.

“We ‘broke’ Facebook,” he says.

And he did it on behalf of his new boss, Steve Bannon.

Wylie is going on the record (and providing the records) to back this description of how, contrary to repeated claims made in parliamentary testimony, Alexsandr Kogan harvested data in the guise of doing research.

Kogan then set up GSR to do the work, and proposed to Wylie they use the data to set up an interdisciplinary institute working across the social sciences. “What happened to that idea,” I ask Wylie. “It never happened. I don’t know why. That’s one of the things that upsets me the most.”

It was Bannon’s interest in culture as war that ignited Wylie’s intellectual concept. But it was Robert Mercer’s millions that created a firestorm. Kogan was able to throw money at the hard problem of acquiring personal data: he advertised for people who were willing to be paid to take a personality quiz on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Qualtrics. At the end of which Kogan’s app, called thisismydigitallife, gave him permission to access their Facebook profiles. And not just theirs, but their friends’ too. On average, each “seeder” – the people who had taken the personality test, around 320,000 in total – unwittingly gave access to at least 160 other people’s profiles, none of whom would have known or had reason to suspect.

What the email correspondence between Cambridge Analytica employees and Kogan shows is that Kogan had collected millions of profiles in a matter of weeks. But neither Wylie nor anyone else at Cambridge Analytica had checked that it was legal. It certainly wasn’t authorised. Kogan did have permission to pull Facebook data, but for academic purposes only. What’s more, under British data protection laws, it’s illegal for personal data to be sold to a third party without consent.

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

Here’s where the violation(s) come in. While participants in Kogan’s harvesting project willingly participated in the project (and in the process made their friends’ Facebook data accessible to Kogan as well), he told Facebook it was for research, and in spite of the fact that the harvesting was done in the UK, he didn’t get consent before he sold the data to CA.

Both Cadwalladr and NYT’s story are calling this a “breach” which in my opinion is counterproductive for a lot of reasons, not least that consumer recourse for “breaches” in the US is virtually nothing — as the recent experience of those exposed in Equifax’ breach has made clear.

Whereas the kinds of TOS violations that Kogan committed in the UK do provide consumers recourse, not just to demand transparency about what happened, but also financial fines. Facebook, in the EU, is similarly exposed (full disclosure: I believe I have a still running challenge in Ireland for my CA-related FB data).

Just as this story was breaking, David Carroll, who has been a key activist on this issue, filed a claim against CA in the UK.

In other words, with Wylie’s testimony, there are sticks to use in Europe to first gain transparency about what happened, and possibly fine the parties. Which is probably why Facebook finally suspended CA’s access to Facebook, without which it is far less dangerous.

There are other aspects of this story: shell companies, a pitch to Lukoil, and questions about the citizenship of those who worked for CA in the 2014 and 2016 elections, potentially raising questions about the involvement of foreign (British) actors in our elections. But here’s the detail in the NYT story I’m most interested in.

While the substance of Mr. Mueller’s interest is a closely guarded secret, documents viewed by The Times indicate that the firm’s British affiliate claims to have worked in Russia and Ukraine.

The Ukrainian side of Paul Manafort’s involvement in the Party of Regions — the American lobbying side of which is what got him charged with conspiracy to defraud the US — pertains to bringing American style politics to Ukraine.

He also directed Yanukovych’s party to harp on a single theme each week—say, the sorry condition of pensioners. These were not the most-sophisticated techniques, but they had never been deployed in Ukraine. Yanukovych was proud of his American turn. After he hired Manafort, he invited U.S. Ambassador John Herbst to his office, placed a binder containing Manafort’s strategy in front of him, and announced, “I’m going with Washington.”

Manafort often justified his work in Ukraine by arguing that he hoped to guide the country toward Europe and the West. But his polling data suggested that Yanukovych should accentuate cultural divisions in the country, playing to the sense of victimization felt by Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine. And sure enough, his clients railed against nato expansion. When a U.S. diplomat discovered a rabidly anti-American speech on the Party of Regions’ website, Manafort told him, “But it isn’t on the English version.”

Yanukovych’s party succeeded in the parliamentary elections beyond all expectations, and the oligarchs who’d funded it came to regard Manafort with immense respect.

There are Americans doing this overseas more and more of late, and Manafort’s efforts for Yanukovych precede the foundation of CA (and Manafort’s involvement in the Trump campaign largely precedes Bannon and Cambridge Analytica’s). But that’s the basis for his relationships in the region.

There’s a lot of implications of the Wylie testimony, assuming law enforcement, parliament, and Congress find his underlying documents as compelling as the journalists have. For starters, this significantly limits what CA (and its intelligence contractor SCL) will be able to do, which neutralizes a powerful tool Bannon and the Mercers have been holding. I believe that both CA and FB are both already at significant legal exposure. I suspect this will finally force FB to get a lot more attentive to what app developers do with FB user data. I’ve been saying for a while that at some point US tech companies may want to harmonize with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which starts being enforced in May. Certainly, it would provide a solution to some of the political problems they’re already facing and harmonization would make compliance easier. That would provide even more teeth to prevent this illicit kind of downstream data usage.

But there also may be aspects of this story that expose CA and their clients, including the Trump campaign, to legal concerns that piggy back on any conspiracy with Russia.

120 replies
  1. Kevin Finnerty says:

    I keep coming back to this (somewhat overlooked) Washington Monthly article, titled “A #TrumpRussia Confession in Plain Sight.” https://washingtonmonthly.com/2017/11/24/a-trumprussia-confession-in-plain-sight/

    Ironically enough the “confession” was posted on Facebook. On November 12, 2016, “Kremlin mouthpiece” Konstantin Rykov wrote, in part:

    “What was our idea with Donald Trump? For four years and two days .. it was necessary to get to everyone in the brain and grab all possible means of mass perception of reality. Ensure the victory of Donald in the election of the US President. Then create a political alliance between the United States, France, Russia (and a number of other states) and establish a new world order….In order to understand everything for the beginning, it was necessary to “digitize” all possible types of modern man.Donald decided to invite for this task — the special scientific department of the “Cambridge University.” British scientists from Cambridge Analytica suggested making 5,000 existing human psychotypes — the “ideal image” of a possible Trump supporter. Then .. put this image back on all psychotypes and thus pick up a universal key to anyone and everyone….The next step was to develop a system for transferring tasks and information, so that no intelligence and NSA could burn it.”

    I suspect this is where the Mueller investigation is heading: collaboration between the Trump campaign (through Cambridge Analytica) and the Russian government on the development and deployment of these robustly targeted digital advertisements. This is the putrid heart at the center of everything, the sin that must be covered up at any cost.

    • orionATL says:

      might that be why robert mercer recently resigned his hedge firm and signed over ownership of breitbart and ca to his daughter(s), rebekka?

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m not sure it’s the center but Nix’s outreach to Assange is one of the things Trey Gowdy has cited when describing that there’s a real there there.

      • DMM says:

        What’s the Russia link here? Kogan?

        In this approach to Wikileaks, does Nix et al believe Assange had the deleted Clinton emails, or do they have them?

  2. Willis Warren says:

    It’s always been obvious Facebook was helping tRUmp and CA target users in a dress rehearsal for Zuckerdick’s Presidential aspirations and who else knows what.  I wonder how they finally got caught.

  3. orionATL says:

    now why would facebook take the following hard-assed legal position if they weren’t trying to shut up the guardian/observer reporting?  it’s inaccurate?  they are worried about a british regulatory/fact finding investigation.  but is that really enough of an explanation?  or is facebook doing some major face saving with its previously pooh-poohed (by company poohba, zuckerman)  influence on the 2016 u. s. federal elections?

    from the guardian article:

    “… On Friday, four days after the Observer sought comment for this story, but more than two years after the data breach was first reported, Facebook announced that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and Kogan from the platform, pending further information over misuse of data.

    Separately, Facebook’s external lawyers warned the Observer on Friday it was making “false and defamatory” allegations, and reserved Facebook’s legal position… ”

    ” false and defamitory statements”, eh?  from the guardian’s cadwalladr? 


    the article starts off with this reportage:

    “…The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

    A whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how Cambridge Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements…”

    my suspicion is that part of the trump team used stolen facebook data and facebook knew it.  facebook had a big team of its employees working with trump’s propaganda/data manipulation team. walled-off or not you would expect some of these smart folk would have guessed, or even heard, that the ca data came from facebook. 

    if so, why did  so facebook wait two years to discipline ca?

  4. aubrey mcfate says:

    Who is this Aleksandr Kogan? I couldn’t help noticing it’s,er, “Aleksandr”. The NYT article doesn’t delve into his background, either, other than describing him as a Russian-American researcher. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

    • emptywheel says:

      The Guardian story has more on him. He was also working for a St. Petersburg university while he was doing this (it’s unclear how much Cambridge knew about this), and was receiving RU funding.

      That said, that at least used to be true of a lot of academics when I was there.

    • Rayne says:

      Willis Warren provided an excerpt with some information, but I suspect he’s a “ghost,” using an issued identity. Try looking around the internet for people with that name; it’s rather like looking for George Johnson or Thomas James.

      • orionATL says:

        why is this imortant?

        what has warren written here that others of us would not. i can think of a few “legit” commenters here who belong despite questionable comments probably with certifiable names.

        if i were starting over, i would have multiple names, one for every cite i commented at.

        • Rayne says:

          Dude. Chill out. I should have said more specifically for you that Aleksandr Kogan may be a “ghost.”

          Now take a few minutes and think about what I wrote.

          • orionATL says:

            rayne wrote:

            “…Willis Warren provided an excerpt with some information, but I suspect he’s a “ghost,” using an issued identity…”

            i’m very chilled out so, save the sarcasm; my question was perfectly legitimate. your comment was unambiguously ambiguous.

            thanks for ungraciously acknowledging your erroneous ambiguity.

            • seedeevee says:


              Yes yes.  I had to double check the Willis Warren comment to see what rayne was writing of.  It made zero sense.  Thank you for getting more than one point clarified here.

                • Dev Null says:

                  No offense to anyone, but I have been told that the grammar rule in Brit English is that pronouns refer to the previous noun. (And so’s yer grampa. [/snark])

                  According to this rule Rayne’s statement is equivalent to:

                  … Willis Warren provided an excerpt with some information, but I suspect [Willis Warren] is a “ghost,” using an issued identity …

                  Not sure if American English follows the same rule, or even has a rule, but IMNSHO the confusion is unsurprising.

                  (And no, IANALinguist, but in a previous life I worked with linguists.)

                  Should there be any doubt: I get that Rayne refers to Kogan.

            • Willis Warren says:

              LOL, I knew what Rayne meant.

              That Kogan changed his name to Dr Spectre is weird.  Really, really, really weird.

              But, that said, it would seem the conspiracy to not elect Clinton goes back further than any of us realize.  Disrupting an election may have been the goal but goals change when you’ve got an asset in the lead

  5. Willis Warren says:

    Holy shit!


    Dr Kogan – who later changed his name to Dr Spectre, but has subsequently changed it back to Dr Kogan – is still a faculty member at Cambridge University, a senior research associate. But what his fellow academics didn’t know until Kogan revealed it in emails to the Observer (although Cambridge University says that Kogan told the head of the psychology department), is that he is also an associate professor at St Petersburg University. Further research revealed that he’s received grants from the Russian government to research “Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks”. The opportunity came about on a trip to the city to visit friends and family, he said.

    • orionATL says:

      my, my. vely intelesting.

      at the proper time let’s not forget britain and the brexit vote. i suspect the two may he brothers sired by ca.

      • Rayne says:

        Check out Carole Cadwalladr’s work for Guardian-UK on Brexit. She’s been chasing the possibility the Brexit referendum was manipulated just as U.S. voters were manipulated in 2016.

        • orionATL says:

          thanks. i have.

          plus the guardian article ew cites mentions the u. s. and brexit as related, as they almost certainly are by ca activity in both venues (guardian and observer are being sued in britain for revealing this) and for personal relationships between nigel farage, boris johnson, trump, and mercer.

        • DMM says:

          This is where it all gets too murky to even begin parsing for me, the effect any of these things had on anyone’s vote. By the very nature of thing they (Internet Research Agency-type operations) wanted to do they had to try to exploit the most divisive wedge issues — the very things that people would already have sharp, intransigent opinions about.

          As for the CA work, there’s little to suggest that “psychographic profiles” are anything more twaddle and incantations, especially as imputed from data like facebook has, useful to classify people by political beliefs and consumer preferences, but hardly for anything close to turnkey manipulation. There’s not even an adequate theory of mind and choice in psychology to map such models and data onto.

          • Rayne says:

            LOL You haven’t been following social network theory. Like this study from 2012 based on 2010 data. I think Facebook is being very disingenuous about the use of its data for social experimentation if there are studies out there more than five years old showing how users can be manipulated. You’re also not being honest with yourself about psychographic profiles; advertisers have used them for quite a long time, it’s only in the last decade their use has been honed across social networks.

            • Dev Null says:

              @DMM @Rayne: DMM references “effect”. Rayne references theory. As Wonkette says, “I am A Idiot”, but I don’t think you’re talking the same concept.

              Social network theory might or might not be well-grounded. CA ops might or might not be grounded in social network (or any other) theory.

              Some people knowledgeable in the area swear that “psychographics” is snake medicine, basing their opinion in part on incoherent statements by CA marketeers and execs (“election cyber warfare”, go figger…). Some very smart people say otherwise. IM experience, it’s the rare tech exec who gets tech right, so whatevs.

              Some essays say that CA were a completely ineffectual bunch of bumbling idiots, and were employed only because the Mercers rescued the Trump campaign, and the Mercers were invested in CA / SCL. Some say that CA were the secret sauce that delivered the win.

              The most plausible argument to me is that with 50M profiles CA didn’t have to be way effective to sway 80K votes, especially with James “The Saint” Comey’s October Surprise; CA merely needed to be correct slightly more often than they were incorrect.

              Guessing that it’s difficult to know how effective CA was without more evidence than we have at this time.

              But feel free to tell me that I am A Idiot™. I won’t disagree.

          • matt says:

            There’s not even an adequate theory of mind and choice in psychology to map such models and data onto.

            DMM, Start with Bernay’s Propaganda, then enjoy a few seasons of Mad Men, and top that off by reading a few issues of Advertising Age.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      One would think that the University might be rethinking whether to continue its relationship with Dr. Kogan.

      If Kogan is implicated in massive irregularities and violations of data protection rules, continuing that relationship might generate liability for Cambridge and whatever subsidiary organizations he works under. Not to mention that it might violate his terms of employment, and generate continuing negative publicity for the University.

    • klynn says:

      DC Comics…

      “The Spectre has all the abilities of a god, including, but not limited to, manipulation of time and space, control over all matter, invulnerability, and limitless strength. Virtually anything he wishes to do to those he judges is possible. He has no discernible weakness other than needing a human host to be able to be a fair and impartial judge, although he has been tricked before by Psycho Pirate and Eclipso. The Spectre is immune to most damage, although he can be hurt by powerful magic. Though he is widely considered to be the most powerful superhero in terms of abilities, the Spectre does not harm the innocent (unless being tricked into doing so). The Spectre is usually immune to mind control effects. In the Blackest Night story arc Atrocitus attempted to enslave him with a red lantern power ring but the Spectre cast it off, stating that his fury comes from a higher power and cannot be controlled by a mere mortal (his corruption by the Black Lantern Corps was only possible as the black lantern power rings were controlling Crispus Allen, the Spectre’s current host, rather than the Spectre himself).” It appears Dr. Kogan likes to be “cute” with his name.

  6. Bob Conyers says:

    I have little doubt that this wasn’t the only such app that was used, that the number of groups who received data is bigger than being reported, and I strongly believe that there was a lot more active involvement by Facebook employees in putting the data to use. Not likely because they cared about the mission, but because it made the metrics that drove pay and bonuses higher.

    I also hope this leads to more information which cracks open the narrative that pro-Trump trolls were just a St. Petersburg operation. I have little doubt that the right has multiple such operations, of varying size and effectiveness. Facebook has the ability to know with a high degree of accuracy which accounts and pages are bogus, but doesn’t want to know for sure.

  7. SpaceLifeForm says:


    ‘We were on the 24th floor. Trump organization was on the 26th floor,” Sater explained. “I basically knocked on his door, said ‘I think we should become partners, I have great real estate deals, I’m going to be a very successful developer. You want to work with me.”

    Sater also recounted how he was approached by an American spy who discretely approached him in the bathroom of a Russian nightclub.

    He said the intelligence operative said, “Felix, they seem to like having a drink with you. They seem to make jokes with you…we’ve been trying to penetrate these people for years.”

  8. aubrey mcfate says:

    For some people this may seem hard to believe in their gut, even if the data points to it, but this is a transnational conspiracy, one that is paradoxically global and parochial and xenophobic. Steve Bannon is quite explicit about it, in his speeches to the National Front, or his evocation of fellow movements in Hungary, Poland, etc. To the American ear the word “nationalist” does not sound sinister, because “nation” doesn’t mean the same thing to us it does in European languages, where “Volk” is representative, or “narod” in Slavic languages. It’s about ethnicity. One of the recurring tropes I find so incredible, and revealing, is that George Soros is evoked everywhere, including by Alex Jones or in the Alabama Senate race. Soros is a Hungarian Jew. If you read a fetid Orban mouthpiece in Hungary like “Magyar Hirlap” there is an article quite literally almost every day about the “Soros network” (you won’t find it on the English version, suprise!). There is a kind of low-budget half-assedness about the way they share a common set of propaganda tools, so that an inbred Alabaman can invoke “Soros”, or a redneck auto mechanic can have his TV set to “RT” (yes, stumbled on this in my neighborhood). A few months ago I read how the Polish regime, so temperamentally anti-Russian, had hosted Dana Rohrabacher and had exchanges with him; it’s no coincidence that Trump picked that fallen country as the venue for his only venture abroad in the democratic world. It’s all so much like the Trump campaign, inept, buffoonish, yet deadly serious; Scott Baio as the Minister of Culture.

    A decade ago I was quite suspect of Putin critics — I had good reason to be: many were the neoconservatives who had got us to invade Iraq and were on the verge of starting in with Iran. So it’s still incredible to me that I can now be on the same side as many of them, but I am, at least when it comes to the merits of their arguments about Trump (I’m thinking of people like Anne Applebaum, David Frum or Jennifer Rubin). Among the many things that leave me feeling vertigo is Trumpists’ simultaneous conspiracy with Russia, whose clients are Iran and Syria, and the enemies of those clients, like Israel/UAE/Saudi Arabia. I remember how a decade ago this site, emptywheel, did some good analysis of the Bush administration’s promotion of our cocksure client in Georgia, Saakashvili and the resulting war. I was sympathetic to Putin at the time in light of our own status as the world’s worst aggressor, but I retrospectively regret my binary thinking — this was already after the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko, long after Russian had revealed its scorched-earth designs on Ukraine.

    One last detail I wanted to take note of. In 2016 there was a guy on Salon named Patrick L. Smith. He had been a correspondent for the Intl. Herald Tribune,  I think, among others. He was a troll for the Russians. He is gone now. I remember being electrified by the absurdity of the arguments on behalf of Russia, and even Trump, for a left-leaning audience, like me, that was gullible to varying degrees. Google his contributions to that outlet and they will read as transparent and brutal propaganda (Victoria Nuland was a frequent villain). And the commenters! — If one invoked Timothy Snyder, for example, they would peg him as a CIA-sponsored Yale neocon….That was my most intimate contact with Russian trollery. I’m still incensed by it, but also horrified that it was maybe just luck, not critical intuition, that I didn’t fall for it all. Never forget what these people have done.

    Don’t know where this unformed comment is going…I guess it’s to say that it’s no longer far-fetched to consider that some billionaire like Robert Mercer is consciously conspiring with Vladimir Putin to conquer the world. After all, what’s the difference between the latter’s mafia state and the form of government we have here at the moment?

    • Trip says:

      The Koch brothers, too. It’s so dense, it would take a very very long time to dig up the bottom of it.

    • Rayne says:

      You might note the strong parallels between white nationalist groups abroad like Australia First and Britain First, and the KKK which had a slogan, America First.

      You might also note Rick Gates launched a nonprofit immediately following the 2016 election called America First Policies; its date of incorporation coincides with the launch of the Muslim travel ban, coincidentally (or not…).

      Is there a transnational conspiracy of white nationalists? Possibly — but researching this to make the case would require digging in some wretched places.

      • matt says:

        I would venture it’s the wealthy/elite internationalists- the ones who are anti-socialist/anarcho-capitalist who need class/race conflict within national boarders and international ethnic/religious conflict everywhere else… to maintain power and stave off the costly march of social reforms (or in their words, entitlements) that technology, democracy, and education make possible.

    • Dev Null says:

      @Aubrey Mcfate: “In 2016 there was a guy on Salon named Patrick L. Smith. He had been a correspondent for the Intl. Herald Tribune, I think, among others. He was a troll for the Russians. He is gone now.”


      Not a troll, not according to the usual definition of “troll”, anyway. Back in the (Int’l Herald-Tribune) day he was one of the most insightful foreign correspondents, or so I’ve read.

      Cf Andrew Bacevich and Daniel Larison, whose views overlap to some extent with Smith’s/Lawrence’s but are most definitely not Russian trolls. Larison writes at The American Conservative, a paleocon rag.

  9. SpaceLifeForm says:


    Cambridge Analytica, however, said that once the company learned about how the data provided by Mr Kogan was sourced, it deleted all the relevant records, in December 2015.

    It said none of that data was used in the services it provided to Mr Trump’s campaign. It added that it did not use or hold data from Facebook profiles​.

    But in a statement, Facebook wrote that it had “we received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted”.

    [BS. ”Not all’ can mean near zero, but also can mean one or two]

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Who is running their database?
      Who is programming their network API?
      (that was abused by CA)

      FB does not need to ‘receive reports’.
      They should have their IT shit together.

      • cat herder says:

        It’s difficult to get a social media network to understand something when their livelihood depends on their not understanding it.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          Great point. Check the Forbes link I posted above.

          I suspect FB is getting a bit of NSA black-budget money.

    • orionATL says:

      from the guardian article of 3-17-18 (hey, that’s today :) ) cited above:

      “… The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box… “

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Your observation about this not being a computer breach – and the problems that mischaracterization causes – is important.

    A “data breach” assumes illegal access by a third-party to data held by a legitimate data holder and processor.  That’s most often a crime.  If that were true here, FB would be, in part, a “victim”.  Its liability would relate to not having provided adequate physical and virtual security for the data it held.  But that misdescribes what FB did here.

    FB intentionally contracted with another party and transferred to it large amounts of data for specific purposes.  It had the opportunity and obligation to determine who it would contract with and on what terms, and to police that contract.  That was, in part, to meet its obligations as a data holder and processor.

    It would appear that FB seriously violated its independent obligations.  Its contracting party also appears to have done the same, in addition to incurring liability to FB for breach of their contract. Likewise, CA and various individuals would appear to have violated data protection rules.

    If this were solely in the US, we might not have even heard of this.  Luckily for various publics, data protection regimes, and the US electoraly system, part of this is arrangement appears to be subject to EU data protection rules.  More of the story will come out and not be held behind secrecy and arbitration agreements.

    It is one more reason the US badly needs a data privacy and data protection regime similar to Europe’s.  Both Democrats and Republicans, loyal to their corporate donors, have fought hard for years to prevent Americans from having protections as common in the developed world as universal health care coverage.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      It is one more reason the US badly needs a data privacy and data protection regime similar to Europe’s.

      This is simultaneously true and will never happen because large parts of the US economy depend upon gross data protection violations. Europeans read about this and perceive it as a gross violation; Americans tend to read about it and think “uh, what’s the problem?”

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        No doubt.  We badly need universal health care as much as we need competent data protection rules. Neither seems likely to make it past congressional roadblocks.

        The banks, computer and telecoms companies, so-called insurers, auto companies, drugs companies, Silicon Valley, and billionaires like the Kochs and Mercers make far too much money abusing data ever to allow their pet Congress to impose legitimate standards and restrictions on them.  The inequality between the US and Europe will get even bigger as the EU’s GDPR come into force.

        As you say, most Americans haven’t a clue how and how much their privacy is invaded, how their data is abused and how it is made obscenely profitable to others.  Those that do shrug and say, nothing I can do.  American companies consider it a right to do such things, which stands the pyramid on its head.

      • Dev Null says:

        Bill Joy, in 1999: “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”

        15+ years before his time.

        Turns out “privacy” isn’t (entirely) an intangible good. And that the absence of privacy can be a very tangible double-plus not-good.

  11. david sanger says:

    “”Websites will be created, blogs will be created, whatever it is we think this target profile will be receptive to, we will create content on the internet for them to find, they see that, click it and they go down rabbit hole .. until they start to think something differently”

    Christopher Wylie, YouTube

    A lot of people are concerned that CA might have gotten “their” data and have done something malicious with it. Personally I think the problem is more with other people’s data. I don’t respond to ads or go off chasing false news blogs, but this is how they targeted potential Trump voters who were susceptible. It explains why the right wing crowd was so obsessed with “Crooked H” and Benghazi etc. The whole narrative was all cooked up and fed to them once they were marked as vulnerable. Fox news amplified it all, as did the campaign, but it was the targeting that made it effective

    • Rayne says:

      It’s that “rabbit hole” effect I worried about when I published a post about the sketchy Oprah recruitment site. It would identify those folks who were very invested in her as a candidate, marking them as ripe for prying away from the Democratic Party’s actual candidates.

      Ditto for other helpful websites and personalities popular with some on the left, especially those who openly identify as Resisters. They can be easily worked on if they travel down the rabbit hole far enough. They are surely already being poked and prodded for the most effective message to get them to vote against their interests in November, or to stay home.

      • aubrey mcfate says:

        Remember the (left-wing) California secession movement right after Trump took office?

        One the one hand, I think right-wingers will believe what they’re told to believe. On the other hand, it’s frightening how susceptible most of us are to this kind of manipulation (see my long comment above).

        But all of that is debatable. The matter at hand is the criminal conspiracy to manipulate elections. Some people can debate the effect of trollery and bots (often in bad faith), but it’s still a legal matter of election and campaign finance law, which are all that Mueller need concern himself with.

        • Rayne says:

          Haven’t forgotten the secession movements — plural. Wasn’t just California, and it wasn’t just the U.S. Think Catalonia (and possibly Scotland) as well as Texas.

          That right-wingers will believe and do what they’re told is no surprise; most have a bent toward an authoritarian personality. That’s one data point in the psychographic profiles developed to manipulate voters.

          And neither of these are factors in Mueller’s investigation as you pointed out; he only has to concern himself with unlawful foreign influence and fraud. But they are both factors when it comes to Facebook; did users and shareholders realize that mass social experimentation had been permitted? Did users fully consent? Did shareholders realize Facebook had taken such shoddy measures to control their user data? I don’t think we’re looking at just conspiracy to defraud the U.S.; we’re looking at the world’s largest economy damaged by the largest social network’s gross negligence.

      • david sanger says:

        Rayne, yes no doubt it can work for anyone they consider susceptible. The overall effect too is to poison the conversation.

        and Aubrey of course the legal consequences of election manipulation are where it really matters for Mueller.

    • orionATL says:

      david sanger –

      “… . I don’t respond to ads or go off chasing false news blogs, but this is how they targeted potential Trump voters who were susceptible…”

      sounds like victim blaming to me (think of sub-prime loans and their marks). you’ve provided a nice out for ca, ignoring the likely demands on ca by their very politically focused moneyman robert mercer and his sidekick in american-euro nationalism at the time, steve bannon.

      • david sanger says:

        It’s not victim blaming to note that SCL’s specialty was “changing people’s minds not through persuasion but through “informational dominance”, a set of techniques that includes rumour, disinformation and fake news.”

        If the effort violated election or campaign law, or broke data usage contracts or laws then there’s no “out” for CA.

        • orionATL says:

          david sanger –

          we may he arguing over small distinctions, but it seems you missed my point, which clearly involved implicitly comparing yourself to less wise trump supporters (see the quote i cited). that statement, combined with the comment about the problem being more “other peoples’ data” than ca, certainly seems to let ca off the hook with respect to being responsible for influencing some voters to vote for trump who might otherwise not have done so. doing so certainly would have been the expectation of mercer, bannon, and perscale and the trump campaign.

          i also do not care for the colloquial vagueness of “rabbit hole”; it is imprecise to say the least.

          whether ca’s psychological approach based on large data set analysis is truely effective or not seems open to question. what is not open to question is that ca intended to influence voters to vote in the direction of feelings, attitudes, and stories in line with trump campaign messages. is expecting to manipulate voters emotions based on info about them collected and combined (analyzed) not “malicous” corporate behavior ? why would ca (and the facebook delivery system ca and pasquale employed) be being scrutinized mueller and democratic congresscritters for its supposed effectiveness if this were not the case?

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          “By utilizing comScore’s television service, Cambridge Analytica’s clients will be able to send the right commercial messages, to the right people, in the right place at the right time, making TV advertising campaigns more efficient and effective.”

          [Actually, I think that is pure misdirection. The opposite is more likely. The comScore data would tell CA who is watching Faux Noise, and therefore those people can be dropped from the targeted FB advertising]

          • Rayne says:

            Wow. You’ve never actually bought any advertising, have you? With the granularity provided by combining both Facebook data and television consumption habits, these guys could identify for example the ‘security soccer moms’ who lived in the greater Detroit Metro area who were centrist voters and occasional Fox viewers worried about crime.

            They don’t drop Fox viewers. They want to hone in on the ones who lean and scare them into voting against the boogeyman they create in their tailored messaging. More importantly, they never drop any datapoint; they figure out how to target it.

            • SpaceLifeForm says:

              Not disagreeing with your point. Certainly they would want to ‘lock in’ pub voters too.

              But, I was thinking of targeted efforts at getting dems to *not* vote at all, which I strongly suspect was a huge problem, because they were convinced that HRC would win, ‘no problem’, so they failed to vote at all.

              Note that the side effect is that it also screws state and local candidates.

              It’s not the TV ad angle I’m talking about, but the social engineering via FB that may have worked better at getting people to *NOT* vote.

              If they can correlate non-Fox viewers with FB users, it make it easier to target dems that use FB.

              • Rayne says:

                More likely they had identified the soft spots where leaning voters were most susceptible. I saw it in young voters — they left the top of the ticket blank, undervoting. IIRC, this happened 87,810 times in MI alone and the margin was only 10,704. It was not that the voters didn’t show up.

                Across the country this was 1.7 million undervotes — but this many undervotes may not be solely a function of microtargeting. We still can’t rule out other opportunities for failure in the system. The number of broken machines in Detroit area and the inability to conduct a recount there thwarts diagnostics.

                EDIT — 2:30 pm EDT — You know what, SLF? I’m putting the swat down on the “Dems didn’t turn out” narrative. This is a perfect example of disinformation which has become so embedded it’s now conventional wisdom. 138,847,000 total voters turned out in 2016, more than the 131,407,000 voters who turned out in 2008 for Obama v McCain. HRC drew more voters than any other U.S. presidential candidate ever, and won the popular vote. It wasn’t the turnout. It was a combination of manipulation in key states, whether
                – targeted manipulation (undervoting as possible evidence),
                – targeted voter suppression (voter ID preventing 80K from voting in WI), or
                – interference in some way with voting systems (broken machines in MI), or
                – all of the above (which I suspect happened in MI and WI), and
                – winner-take-all electoral votes in some states and under-representation by electoral votes in others (ex WY vs. CA)

                It wasn’t that Dems didn’t turn out. We need to lose this narrative. We win when districts aren’t gerrymandered especially by race, when there isn’t voter suppression, when voting systems and data are secure and work properly.

    • aubrey mcfate says:

      Right-wingers were already tuned in to Crooked H (Killary) and Benghazi well before that. I put up an Obama yard sign in ’12 and had a neighborhood woman (presumably, an early-morning dog-walker, I think) leaving Benghazi leaflets regularly under it. It’s a sub-rational mentality we can’t really understand intuitively. Try to have a “debate” at a bar with a right-wing male…you’ll detect a certain smirk. You just don’t get it. It’s not about facts (fake news) or arguments…

      Russians are merely amplifying and refining this, weaponizing it in the case of their promotion of the NRA.

      • DMM says:

        This right here. I think it’s something we’re losing sight of in many of these discussions: none of this started the last 2-3 years. The only thing really “new” is the visibility of white supremacist groups. This is not to downplay the latter point at all, of course, but our perspectives about the deep divisiveness in American politics have become temporally skewed, often in bad faith IMO by the singular focus on whipping up froth by popular media posing as news (separately and distinctly, but on both sides).

        • matt says:

          What’s new is that personal data allows you to customize ads that specifically target a voters known biases…  Hundreds of styles of tailored adds which are A/B tested for maximum CTR give you enormous influence for very, very little money spent.

          This is vs. very costly boots-on-the-ground campaigning or national advertising in the traditional formats.

          I do heartily agree with you, though, that American voter’s interests are much more aligned between parties than people realize, and that “whipping up divisive froth” is the most effective way to curtail spending for the genuine needs of all citizens.

    • Dev Null says:

      Chances are I’ve lost the thread, but if an election is all about going down a rabbit hole, why are Trump and Faux Propaganda Network still demonizing HRC? HRC is great-granpappy’s obsession, so to speak.

      And various surveys show millennials fleeing the GOP en masse, hardly the sort of thing one overcomes by micro-targeting. (cites on request, I don’t have them at hand, but Evan Siegried is one reference.)

      The GOP won’t win the midterms by demonizing HRC.

  12. Richard says:

    “When a U.S. diplomat discovered a rabidly anti-American speech on the Party of Regions’ website, Manafort told him, “But it isn’t on the English version.”

  13. pdaly says:

    Marcy wrote:
    (full disclosure: I believe I have a still running challenge in Ireland for my CA-related FB data).

    Marcy, are you referring to a separate incident that you are not at liberty to discuss? Or are you stating your dual citizenship with Ireland gives you EU data protections/legal standing in this current FB CA data mining?

    If the latter, why don’t we reach out to all dual US/EU citizens?

  14. pdaly says:

    Does one even need to be an EU passport holder?
    Here is a legal demand in the UK High Court by Parsons School of Design Prof. David Carroll for a copy of his personal data (SAR or subject access request) that Cambridge Analytica obtained on him and used to make predictions about his beliefs and behavior.
    The claim is based on the “s 7 Data Protection Act” of 1998 (DPA).
    Carroll also wants “pre-action disclosure” whatever that it pursuant to the Senior Courts Act 1981.

    His filing starts about 5 pages in.

  15. Willis Warren says:

    Most of what I’ve been reading on CA confirms a lot of the theories I’ve had about Facebook libertarian sites over the last few years, especially.

    Most of them are “rabbit holes” in the way outlined here. This is some weird shit. I don’t doubt that the Russians are knee deep in this, but I suspect there may be a broader, richer element at work, too. But what’s with the fucking fascists???

    • aubrey mcfateb says:

      “What’s with the fucking fascists???”

      It’s simple: they are the most popular anti-democratic faction and the most anti-E.U. (while at the same time milking that institution; see a long Reuters article this week about Orban’s gang) and therefore served the specifically Russian interests in this constellation of plutocratic and autocratic interests. And I wouldn’t call the ones in Poland and Hungary strictly “fascists”. They really are the heirs to interwar “nationalist” parties. They don’t advocate military dictatorship or play dress-up (much). And they have popular legitimacy,  because their policies are genuinely “populist”. For example, in Poland now you get 500 zl (about $150 in a country where per capita income is at least three times less than here) per child for having a child. When I heard about this I scoffed, What’s the big deal? We have a child tax credit here…. It’s 500 zl per month. You can’t beat that, especially after a very capable liberal government of fiscal probity that…unfortunately raised the retirement age for some segments of the population. The president of the E.U. council, Donald Tusk, was the prime minister of that government.

      In Hungary Orban succeeded a corrupt left-wing government, and if I remember correctly there was tremendous popular outrage at banks, which had pushed mortgages in Swiss francs on an unsuspecting public.

      Here is the U.S. it’s in many ways worse, because the supposedly “populist” right advocates nothing that is popular, except for bigotry. A wit at New York magazine summed up the “civil war” in the Republican Party by saying that it’s plutocrats pretending not to be bigots against bigots pretending not to be plutocrats.

  16. Trip says:

    @bmaz, Would this would qualify for a class action lawsuit? People who did not consent, but were associated with those who did, had all of their info harvested, etc. by this outside party, with Facebook’s blessing or negligence. Like Marcy said, and earl repeated, this was not a breach.

    Maybe that’s what it would take to make steps toward better privacy standards in the US.

    • Rayne says:

      I wonder this myself. The problem is bigger than unauthorized access to Facebook’s API to harvest users’ data; it’s the rolling bad faith on Facebook’s part, allowing social experimentation on its user base without express consent of users. It may have changed its terms of service to accommodate some of this experimentation, but when Facebook hasn’t clearly explained the nature and scope of data harvesting and manipulation before users can offer express consent, it’s bad faith. Some of this may be Facebook’s own naivete and stupidity but the onus is on them.

      Many will argue that users should have known their data would be used. True, most social networks operate under an implicit quid pro quo; when social networks don’t charge users for access to their platform, they’re the product. Yet users do have a right to expect explicit statements about their personal, intimate data usage; social networks as advertising platforms are far beyond the Nielsen ratings method once used pre-internet with broadcast media, or advert sales based on audiences buying a specific segment of print media. With broadcast and print the selection and acquisition process expressed consent and provided a limited amount of consumers’ information. With social networks, there’s little control on the consumers’ side. It’s nearly impossible to shut off the stream of information pushed at users short of exiting the platform — or shut off the stream of users’ data collected.

      (This part has yet to be sussed: Facebook is following persons who don’t have active Facebook accounts and did not consent at all to Facebook’s data collection.)

      The shortsighted, small-minded will chime in and suggest this is exactly what should be done, but that’s regressive, not curative. It doesn’t solve the larger issue that corporations (not social media/networks alone) now perceive an unlimited right to personal data. In the absence of regulatory controls, lawsuits will have to rein in this expectation.

    • bmaz says:

      I don’t know. I do not do that kind of work, and class action litigation has been pushed toward extinction by the Supreme Court. Also, I think there is a question of who has standing to certify such a class. My bet is SCOTUS would be dubious.

      • Rayne says:

        Sadly, a shareholder suit would probably have more traction — Facebook knew about the data appropriation and its anticipated impact on shareholder value, and failed to disclose it in a timely manner. The barrier is lack of financial impact so far; if the stock plummets Monday forward, shareholders could consider a class action.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      A Class Action could happen, but you know that only some lawyers will come out ahead. FB will settle before any real dirt can come out during discovery.

      In fact, that would be a reason for a Class Action lawsuit to happen. Just to bury the news.

      What would a FB user (a member of the class), possibly win? The service is free, the user can not be given a couple of months of free service.

      The best they could win is more misdirection.

      There is really no downside for FB in the US.

      Only EU will be able to dig out the dirt.

      • bmaz says:

        This is standard issue right wing conservative talking point crap about class action litigation. Because those assholes would rather nobody have the ability to join together against big malefactors than pay “the lawyers”.

        It is a crock of shit. 99% of class members would not have the wherewithal to take on a large corp or other malefactor. But, yet, the hatred of lawyers trying to make a point, on the come paying their own expenses, for society as a whole, is polluted with this horse manure.

        Don’t spread that shit anywhere near me.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Indeed.  “Class action reform” has a lot in common with bogus “tort reform”. The latter was a political project to deprive largely Democratic Party leaning plaintiffs’ lawyers of the resources to finance often Southern Democrats. It was also about protecting corporations from accountability for their wrongful conduct. “Class action reform,” too, is about protecting those same corporations from having to internalize the costs their business models generate for society at large.

          The mechanism for doing that was to take away the power of the many people harmed in small ways from banding together to stop systemically harmful behavior.  Banks are among those famously opposed to class actions. So are chemical companies and extraction industries that decimate drinking water sources.  Two dollars fifty for an ATM withdrawal, for example, is a bite.  But across the system, it’s many millions of wrongul rent seeking.  Ditto with various kinds of mortgate fraud.

          Plaintiffs’ lawyers benefit when their clients’ work together to pursue joint aims.  (Sounds like the US Chamber of Commerce.)  A few in a big way.  Does anybody think Jones, Day or Kirkland & Ellis give their corporate clients a deep discount when they are in deep shit?  Or do they “value bill”?

  17. lefty665 says:

    Vance Packard described it in “The Hidden Persuaders” in 1957. Can you believe it, 60 years later people are still at it?  Oh the horror, from Benghazi! to Trump Derangement Syndrome, we’re all just mindless twigs tossed on an ocean of manipulation, no will of our own, just pitiful sheeple to be twisted and manipulated for nefarious purposes. Oh the horror, Soylent Green is Sheeple. But then don’t forget H L Menken. Nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American sheeple er public.

    CA got to Trump’s campaign via Ted Cruze’s electoral juggernaut.  CEO Nix has been pretty much discounted as a self promoting blowhard, and CA was dumped by the Trumpers because it was ineffective.

    If we want to be offended by propaganda in Ukraine, we might start with the $5,000,000,000 Asst Sec State Victoria Nuland bragged the US spent to overthrow the elected government. Manafort was small potatoes.

    Does anyone not understand that Facebook exists to monetize their data and clicks?

  18. Trip says:

    Christopher Wylie‏ @chrisinsilico
    Suspended by @facebook. For blowing the whistle. On something they have known privately for 2 years.
    4:37 AM – 18 Mar 2018

    • SpaceLifeForm says:


      His attorney, Tamsin Allen, said in a statement early Sunday that when Facebook became aware of the articles about to published about data harvesting at the social media giant, the company “privately welcomed” his help — and then publicly suspended his account.

      [‘about to be published’. Media is leaking back to corps. Too many IC people embedded in media orgs which is why media does not do their job as 4th Estate]

      [Trip, reverse true. I am sure Fox knew. Apparently, IG report was not released near 15:30, but later. FBI has big issues]

  19. cfost says:

    The SCL/CA/Facebook interface really took this whole ConFraudUS thing global. I agree with Aubrey: this is looking more and more like a transnational conspiracy, but I suspect that the “national” part is just a means to an end. I’m thinking of words Bannon used in the past that baffled me, seemed like non sequiturs: “deconstruct,” and “Trump is an empty vessel.” Maybe we thought the reference was to cultural or US political deconstruction, but it could be more than that. Maybe the white nationalist, kkk, or altright stuff was a smokescreen, useful both here and in Europe.

    I think of Ruskiputin, with his oligarchs, cutouts, trolls, manchurians, and his clients Iran and Syria. I think of Turkey, the Dardanelles, the way Trump welcomed Erdogan’s thugs, and Flynn. Israel and the Adelson connections. The “rearrangement” of the House of Saud, and of the Saudi desire for nuclear anything. The UAE connections emerging from IAD to Prince to Seychelles. The Wilbur Ross Bank of Cyprus. The Manafort/Gates arm of the Octopus.

    When I think of these things, I don’t think of nations, or ethnicities, or of a position on the spectrum of political philosophy, or of religions. I think of rich people. Rich people with sick psyches. And we haven’t even gotten to Mercer or to Murdoch or to Koch or to Thiel, et al. Or, on the other end, to Soros.

    Possible means? Brexit, race conflicts, nationalist conflicts, “immigrant” conflicts, fear, anger, induced violence, disinformation. Deconstruction of the existing political order, especially in Europe and N. America, would open the door to a, um, new world order. And not simply for the benefit of Ruskiputin.

    Oil appears to be involved. Perhaps global oil interests are looking to diversify by fraud. But whatever the motive, it is a sure bet that Money, Power, and Control are the end game. I can imagine the fun: who gets the space programs, who gets the media, the utilities, the banks, the privatized military, etc.?

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Want to think outside the box?

      How many earthly lifeforms can you think of that could be convinced to board a spaceship that is allegedly here to rescue you from global problems?

    • matt says:

      Without a doubt, it is the elite parasites of a “supra-national” class.  They represent the amassed fortunes and corporate controlling interests of the capitalist endgame.

  20. soldalinsky says:

    This is some wacky logic designed to divide and distract.  You don’t think FB was helping Clinton too… probably a lot more?  What about poor Bernie and how the DNC defrauded him?

    So I’m supposed to believe that violating TOS is somehow equivalent to sedition? You also expect me to overlook the fact that Obama et. al. employed the full mechanism and force of the NSA to eavesdrop on Trump’s political campaign?  You really think that the Democrats are going to restore the rule of law if they indict Trump on a process charge?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Wow.  Lot of virtual crap for a single sitting.  Software might benefit from a tweak.

        To pick one, I would say FB and and CA, to name two, have a lot more to worry about than a simple violation of terms of service.  There’s a lot of intentionally wrongful conduct there, so I would say quite a bit more, once the Information Commissioner has a good look.  I should think the Met might want a good look at this, too.

    • Rayne says:

      Oh, I should have placed a bet on when we’d see the first WhatAboutism. This one’s pretty special, too, a trifecta dinging Clinton/DNC/Obama with extra points for shoehorning in the NSA.

      Gonna’ have to do better than that, n00b.

    • matt says:

      You really think that the Democrats are going to restore the rule of law if they indict Trump on a process charge?

      That’s a fair question.  When/if the Dems get control of congress, courts, WH… they will have a lot of work to do.  As in first reversing Trump era executive orders, then drafting new legislation on digital privacy…  and new legislation on campaign advertising/finance…  Dems have questionable performance when going after big corporations, big energy, big banks, etc… so it’s a valid question- one wonders if the political enthusiasm for improving our elections will still be there when Dems have the power to actually do something.

  21. John says:

    A few thoughts:

    Facebook’s Platform Policy, says, in regard to Kogan’s original research, “We can analyze your app, website, content, and data for any purpose, including commercial.”  Did Facebook itself exercise its right, as stated in the Platform Policy, to use the work of Dr. Aleksandr Kogan?  If so, what analysis was preformed?  What data was used and remains?  Were any products created from Kogan’s work?  Were any of these products used in the election of 2016?

    Mercer.  Mercer has been doing work similar to the work of Cambridge Analytica for years in the financial markets.  You can consider predicting where money will flow in the markets as analogous to predicting where votes will go:   Investors vote with money.  With this money, they vote billions of times every day.   One key to understanding those monetary votes is understanding investor psychology.  Further, stocks, markets, commodities can swing violently and be manipulated by short term (sometimes false) information.  This is to say that Mercer was familiar  for many decades on a day-to-day basis with the fact that votes (or money flows) can change drastically because of short-term information.

    So, what would Mercer see as an opportunity when investing in CA?  In the long term, markets return to equilibrium and value.  But in the short term, they can experience a violent disjunction, or a small change in price in a small market can have great consequences.  It doesn’t take a genius to see that this can apply to elections as well.  Indeed, collusion is difficult to prove because the goal of collusion, make voters abstain from voting or vote for Trump, needs little or no discussion by the parties.  Trump himself advocated for Russia’s assistance.

    However, all parties were aware that the timing of their efforts were important, because the maximum effect of manipulation is transitory.  So, Mueller is not going to get a lot of information about the obvious, what to do, but rather some cryptic communications about the important question of when to do it.

    • Rayne says:

      Facebook’s Platform Policy, says, in regard to Kogan’s original research, “We can analyze your app, website, content, and data for any purpose, including commercial.”

      But when did Facebook begin allowing researchers access to users’ data? Were their terms of service the same then as they are now? Have they changed more than once if they’ve changed?

      Kogan wasn’t the first researcher to access FB’s data. There have been others going back at least as far as 2012; were users aware then their data’s analysis would include experimentation on users’ response as well as collecting data before and after? It wouldn’t be the first time this was a problem with Facebook.

  22. John says:

    The phrase “analyze your app, website, content and data for any purpose,” strongly suggests, if not flatly states, that Facebook allows developers to create APIs or to do research because it is a form of free labor for the benefit of Facebook.  Facebook is allowed to duplicate any work that developers or researchers do using its platform, and it probably collects all the data and code from every developer.  Facebook TSA with its users certainly allows experimentation because that is their business model–monetizing data from their users.  One could describe many algorithms to sell a product or service as results of a vast and varied social psychology experiment by Facebook.  So, it began on day 1, and calling one project “research” is a distinction without a difference since every ad you see is a result of similar research.

    • Rayne says:

      And yet back in 2014 Facebook knew that some of the use of its data may have constituted experimentation, illegal in a number of states, and not explicitly authorized by its users.

      To be absolutely blunt, social experimentation does require fully-informed express consent, kind of like other forms of fucking.

  23. John says:

    Regarding social psychology experiments, they have contributed critical insights to human behavior; and after the SPE, they have been guided by APA regulations. However, consent in most social psychology experiments is rarely fully-informed. Frequently, subjects do not know the goal of the experiment. Regarding how Facebook uses its data, it is accurate to state that it is to a large degree a form of experimentation. Users probably are as informed as subjects in a social psychology experiment, but the standards, practices, and goals of Facebook are not analogous to APA’s. Users probably don’t read and understand facebooks TSAs or the TSAs of Facebook’s developers.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        APA’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.  Those regulations?

        Those regulations don’t seem much in evidence in gubmint work.  They seemed absent at Gitmo, and in the work of Mitchell and Jessen, and Donald Hebb at McGill, the Disneyland of CIA psych experimentation.  I believe it still equivocates about enhanced interrogation and such like.  Then there are its peers in psychiatry, such as Donald Cameron, also at McGill.  A great deal of research in pyschology, in fact, most especially in social psychology, was funded by the DOD and the CIA.

        The profession has also benefited immeasurably from its work for large, for-profit corporations.  Its work for Madison Avenue comes to mind.  For every Freud one might cite, there might be ten or more Edward Bernays. The average FB user doesn’t know what FB does with their data, by design, any more than she knows what Xfinity does with it, or Google, or Apple, let alone Cambridge Analytica. She could hardly give informed consent.

        With all due respect to the MSWs and PhDs who perform ethical counseling and research, theirs is a profession dominated by work for corporations and governments.  It is one with a troubled past that could stand a little self-analysis.

        • Rayne says:

          EARL. Don’t act like a n00b.

          Read this article (which I linked previously).

          And then read this letter (including the footnotes).

          The pile on without doing the homework — evident in conflating unrestrained government contractors and the entire psychology/psychiatry professions with the subject of unchecked Big Tech — isn’t going to fly. This is EXACTLY when corporations are supposed to have their feet held to the fire, when techbros’ reckless bad faith should be held to account.

          It’s long overdue when we’re evaluating disclosure of social experimentation by the light of our democracy in flames. The article and letter go back to 2014 and Facebook was allowing experimentation for years before that, the research is published even within NIH. Throwing up our hands and saying, OMG THE GOVERNMENT DOES THIS AND PSYCHOLOGISTS ARE HACKS is an abandonment of responsibility. Imagine if we hadn’t simply throw up our hands and rolled on by this issue back in 2010-2014.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            You’re misreading.  SAD.  And who is throwing up their hands?  It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

            Of course corporations and governments need to be held to greater account.  High-tech, as some of the comments below suggest, can be limitlessly rapacious while cynically appearing to be a social good.  It’s enough to make one a fan of Dave Eggers, despite the poor translation of the Circle into film.  I prefer Henry Giroux.  But high-tech might also provide immense benefits, depending on its costs and how it is made available.  This internet connection, for example.

            There is an obvious parallel with the history of psychology in America.  My comment suggested that academic psychology has a long, checkered history of supporting government and corporate excesses.  I suggested specific examples.  I would add WWI era and later misuses of intelligence testing to the list.

            That psychology has developed profound understanding of the human psyche and human social interaction is cause to hold it to account as well as to praise it.  As with high-tech, it is not cause to throw it out with the bath water.

            Same with government.  Neoliberalism’s abuses of government, for example, need to be corrected.  Democracy is nothing more than people banding together to pursue common aims.  That description, though, also fits plutocracy and corporate trade associations.  The problem is that the latter have arrogated to themselves the exclusive right to band together to pursue common goals, lest others use that form of social organization to pursue ends that conflict with theirs.

            That needs substantial correction.  Given neoliberalism’s cultural successes, it is likely to be a long and bloodly conflict.  That is no reason not to wage it.  After all, we might be at the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

        • John says:

          My understanding is that the APA’s code was created after Donald Hebb and the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE).  Before that time, yes, social psychology was funded heavily by DOD, etc. for psych-ops.  However, after people like Milgram and Zimbardo started using their research to question authority and obtain results the government didn’t like, DOD funding dried up.

          It also dried up because the government’s experiments couldn’t comply with APA’s code.  So, for a time, the government conducted hired its own psychologists and conducted experiments on its own, in secret.  Also, in Central America, with the school for americas, torture was codified.  Then, after 911, with issues such as the psychological harm and the effect of battle on soldiers, social psychologists from the government program started to seep back into the APA on the basis that they were following the code in the experiments that they published.  I don’t know all the details, but Mitchell and Jensen were not giving talks at the APA on how to torture.  It certainly was a case of willful ignorance of what the government psychologists might be doing; because when directly asked about what they were doing, the government psychologists would say it was classified.  On an individual basis and on an institutional basis, the APA did not handle that well.  You could say the situation resembled a social psychology experiment.  But I think it’s unfair to castigate all of social psychology.  When we think about how easily a democratic society can be transformed into a dictatorship, work such as Milgram and Zimbardo’s should be an important part of the discussion.

            • John says:

              That’s great!  She’s daring to follow Peter Gabriel, and is much more funny.

              worth a depressing listen:  We do what we are Told, Milgram’s 37

              Rayne, you miss my point entirely.  It’s facebook’s business model, they’ve protected it legally, and you are not going to get change by asserting nonexistent rights that users have given away.  You have to think of a better method of attack.

              See https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/opinion/facebook-cambridge-analytica.html

              • Rayne says:

                I didn’t miss your point. Users do have rights, and there is law which recognizes them in several states. They didn’t give them away; they were not informed and therefore could not consent. The problem is that users’ rights have not been uniformly recognized across the U.S.

                We also need to have a national dialog about ethical business models; consumers and the nation as a political body do not owe any business guaranteed success when their model is not ethical. Such a business should fail and hard.

  24. lefty665 says:

    Why would anyone expect any privacy for anything they do on Facebook?  Zuckerberg had to work hard to figure out how to make money out of Facebook. When he figured out that every click, every page view is of value to someone the monetization of social media participation took off. If each  byte can be of value to several people, organizations, or corporations, so much the better,  each one turns into revenue for Zuckerberg. Nice work when you can get it, and no reason to believe Facebook did not maximize its return byte by byte. It’s as American as apple pie.

    Pretty slick piece of work that FB figured out how to piggyback on everything anyone did on their platform. How many folks, including Zuckerberg used parts of or all of the analytics or data CA had access to and more to turn a buck, an opinion. or both? FB is not a naive innocent victim of CA, IRA or any other bad actors as yet unidentified. FB made money on every transaction.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It would appear that FB grants itself a permanent, non-exclusive license to use anything its contractors develop using “its” data.  Nice work if you can get it.  Next time, FB, won’t need anyone else to use bots to swing opinion in their favor.

      Wonder when people will stop giving FB free access to their innermost selves.  Gold miners working for free.

      • lefty665 says:

        Yep, and probably never. Comes under H L Mencken and “Nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American public” as Zuckerberg demonstrates.

        Here’s from the Wash Post. First quote is about how FB figured out how to make money. Second quote is how Obama for America made Cambridge Analytica look like pikers and rubes, also demonstrates what a primitive operation IRA was running.  They were not very sophisticated trolls.

        “The model was to build and grow and figure out monetization,” said Sandy Parakilas, a former Facebook operations manager who oversaw developers’ privacy practices until 2012. “Protecting users did not fit into that.” Parakilas, as well as a contractor who worked on these issues at Facebook until 2016, said that Facebook did not conduct a single audit of developers during their tenures.

        The Federal Trade Commission and European regulators had reviewed and were familiar with the company’s data policies at the time, Facebook said Monday. The company says that any user who downloaded an app or used the sign-on feature had to agree to a permissions screen that said, “This app will receive the following info: your public profile, friend list, birthday, groups, current city, photos, and personal description and your friends’s birthdays, photos, and likes.”


        “In 2011, Carol Davidsen, director of data integration and media analytics for Obama for America, built a database of every American voter using the same Facebook developer tool used by Cambridge, known as the social graph API. Any time people used Facebook’s log-in button to sign on to the campaign’s website, the Obama data scientists were able to access their profile as well as their friends’ information. That allowed them to chart the closeness of people’s relationships and make estimates about which people would be most likely to influence other people in their network to vote.”

        “We ingested the entire U.S. social graph,” Davidsen said in an interview. “We would ask permission to basically scrape your profile, and also scrape your friends, basically anything that was available to scrape. We scraped it all.”


  25. Trip says:

    This was an interesting read from 2017, and revisiting it now:
    IamA classmate of Mark Zuckerberg who created the initial school-wide Facebook at Harvard in 2003, which Mark joined and copied. AMA!

    I think hate is the wrong word. We reached a settlement (as the links above indicate) in 2009.
    I do have serious concerns about Mark’s recent claims that he wants to help promote democracy. I think his behavior indicates that he has no interest in democracy whatsoever. He runs Facebook effectively as a dictator (which I say based on his manipulation of the publicly traded stock share types, which permit him to retain control basically no matter what). Dictators tend to be incompatible with democracy.


  26. Willis Warren says:

    Facebook is so stupid. Right now, there’s a concerted effort from fake Russian (I assume) profiles that are spamming the shit out of local papers with pro trump nonsense and fuckheadbook is so far behind it, it’s pathetic

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