Another Shoe Dropped: Cambridge Analytica Used Its Own Kompromat

I confess, I did NOT see this coming, a perfect example of blindness based in preconceived notions about technology companies.

UK’s Channel 4 just aired a report in which Cambridge Analytica executives were secretly filmed discussing the creation and use of compromising material in campaigns. Some of the acts described violate UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.


Last evening there had been teasers revealing Cambridge Analytica had used actual Facebook users’ account information while demonstrating their psychographic profiling product, without masking the users’ personal information. This is ugly on its own, violating users’ privacy without permission.

But the creation and use of kompromat…wow.

This is an open thread. Have at it.

69 replies
    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I’m shocked, shocked to think that neither House nor Senate GOP members will oppose the will of Dear Leader, regardless of the shithole he takes them into.

  1. jon says:

    I admit im not a techie.but let me get this straight. Cambridge analytica aka the mercers n Bannon gather data on facebook users .specifically in key districts. then target them with a fake news my question is where and how did the Russians get connected? they obviously picked up and spread the fake news.How does mueller connect the dots?

    • Rayne says:

      DOJ’s indictment of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), Yevgeniy Prigozhin (a.k.a. Putin’s Cook), his two firms Concord Management and Concord Catering, and 12 other Russians, must be thought of as targeting the distribution system.

      Cambridge Analytica is the marketing firm – it developed the product (content attacking HRC and/or supporting Trump), determined its placement, and likely explained how to promote it.

      Facebook was the network over which the IRA+Russians distributed the microtargeted product to voters.

      The link between Cambridge Analytica (CA) and the IRA+Russians isn’t yet clear but it won’t take much to find CA approving a particular message and the IRA+Russians picking it up and running with it. All in good time; if Team Mueller already has the distribution system nailed, he knows what they were distributing and its origins.

      One problem: chasing CA’s role may lead away from other conspiracies which are dangerous and still in progress — like whatever it is conspirators are working on which might enrich them but upend geopolitics, creating massive instability. I hope Team Mueller already has what they need.

      • orionATL says:

        a marketing and development firm (ca) and a distribution firm (ira-st. petersburg) and a network for distribution. this is reminiscent of the film industry.

        this is a very helpful way to connect and think about the misinformation dissemination project run by the russians under prighozin and by the americans under pasquale.

    • Lamsmy says:

      The whistle blower from CA, Wylie, states that he was present for meetings with Russian Lukoil executives who wanted to discuss the American election.

      Presumably more on this still to come. The UK’s Channel 4 which ran the sting operation on CA is airing 4 episodes relating to this mess. Episodes 1 and 2 have aired. Number 3 comes tonight.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Channel 4 claims to have film and to have spent months on its sting operation of CA’s alleged professional sting operation.  CA, or so it told Channel 4, claimed to be able to influence elections around the world.  This would not be an outlier of the Trump organization.  This method of operations is the Trump organization.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      ‘This would not be an outlier of the Trump organization. This method of operations is the Trump organization.”

      I would argue that the Trump organization is an outlier of a bigger organization.

      The trump org is expendable, as CA would be to FB.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    More from the Guardian and Motherboard:

    [CA CEO Alexander] Nix speaks of setting up fake IDs, websites, and identities in target countries to gather information and blackmail material. Former Cambridge Analytica employees have admitted to The Guardian of working on tourist visas during Trump’s election campaign. Cambridge Analytica, Nix says, can subcontract—to Israeli spy firms, for example—and operate under different names for extra layers of obfuscation. Turnbull mentions an unnamed Eastern European country where the company “ghosted in,” and then disappeared after the job was done.

    I suppose the Trumpies never said, “Nix to that.”  More likeliy, they said Grrrreat!

    When listening to old Etonians like Alexander Nix sell their wares, it’s hard to tell who are the sex workers and who the CEOs.

    • Rayne says:

      Sounds like it, and she was right — except they turned this around on her, weaponizing to use against her. Not difficult in a society which marginalizes women’s speech. They only had to use Fox News, right-wing talk radio, and right-wing blogs to weaponize this, too. Now they have an even more powerful media-based weapon, can reach people who don’t watch Fox or listen to talk radio.

      • orionATL says:

        don’t forget to include the nytimes with its endless efforts to put hillary clinton in a questionable or demeaning light, i.e., it’s 2015 “scoop” about clinton about to be indicted on criminal charges.

  4. Jonf says:

    Before they are finished with Mueller, he will look the criminal, nicely served up so Trump can fire him.  And all the republicans will take a round loudly praising their dear leader. The game is on as we speak. Trump’s  tweets foretell the future, brilliant man that he is. This week perhaps?

    • matt says:

      I think the opposite.  Mueller already presumably knows what this channel 4 expose brings to light.  Instead of Putin as public enemy no. 1, it will be Bannon/Mercer… this is much better for our democracy- that we clean our own house.

      Even if Trump was “not in the loop” he will still look like the stooge that we already know he is.  More so, because he will be the idiot that believed he won his presidency on merit.

      …and he still must contend with sex scandals, obstruction of justice, and real estate money laundering…

      • jonf says:

        I certainly look forward to more news on Cambridge Analytica but I’m not so sure it will stop Fat Donnie. His tweets make me think he is warming up to it. I hope not.

  5. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Tomorrow may be the biggest bang from C4 News: another undercover film where Cambridge Analytica boasts about its role in the US election.

    This evening, Facebook apparently sent a security team to CA’s UK offices to recover data (!?!) but was told to stand down by the Information Commissioner’s Office while it sought a warrant. Let’s see what hasn’t been deleted by the time they get in.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        Thanks Rayne.

        In other news,

        Alex Stamos falls on his sword and resigns from Facebook.

        You know this is big now, and FB is an op.

        The bizarre part is that the FB API and database issues, is that it likely was not only CA collecting this data.

        Many other players could have also.

        Even FBI for example.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          I very much doubt the Dr. Spectre app was the only one that CA used, and I absolutely agree that others besides CA cut deals with Facebook for data collecting apps that triggered (or should have triggered) Facebook’s alerts but were ignored.

          My hope is that this finally provides governments the goose to dig deeper into advertising and trolling on Facebook. So far the emphasis in public reporting has been incredibly focused on the St. Petersburg factory. There is simply no way that is the end of it.

          And yes, I would expect that FB has a lot of hooks into government data collection that nobody wants to talk about.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          Alex says ‘no longer in role’, not resigned. Did he ‘protest’?

          Despite the rumors, I’m still fully engaged with my work at Facebook. It’s true that my role did change. I’m currently spending more time exploring emerging security risks and working on election security.

          [Nice cover. Pure BS. Otherwise this would not have happened in the first place]

          As Reuters also reported, Yahoo’s then-Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Stamos, resigned in protest once he found out about the secret program. Stamos now works at Facebook.

        • Rayne says:

          Researchers had access to FB’s data for years. It’s puzzling nobody really paid enough attention to what academics were doing with their work — including Kogan.

  6. Frank Probst says:

    Interesting article on the “brain” behind Cambridge Analytica from The Guardian:

    I need to read up on how Robert Mercer made his money.  I just assumed he inherited it, but it sounds like he designed a lot of the algorithms the run the automatic trading that happens on Wall Street.

    So tomorrow we get Part 3 of Channel 4’s report, and Jim Comey’s book goes on sale.  I think the Comey book is going to sell well because Trump keeps tweeting about Comey, but I’m surprised that there haven’t been any “bombshells” that are typically thrown out the week before one of these books comes out, and I haven’t seen Comey on television at all.  I’m worried that it might turn out to be a dud.  Anyone else thinking this?

  7. orionATL says:

    what’s missing for me so far is a motive for facebook leadership to work with the trump-favoring development and distribution network rayne described above. i think any notion that facebook was blindsided by all this is not credible. maybe facebook hoped to show political businessmen (campaign workers) how effective it could be, with visions of television network like income streams dancing in their heads

    • Frank Probst says:

      The motive for facebook is money.  That’s pretty much the motive for everything they do.  They sell your information to people so that they can use it to target their advertising to the right people.

    • Trip says:

      Also, Fuckerberg has political ambitions. Maybe testing out the potential influence-wares ahead of time? He’s about power in addition to money.

    • Rayne says:

      Facebook did what all Big Tech does: they had an income stream based on serving data. They don’t think big picture. They don’t think systemically. They’re not educated to do so, they’re not coached by the entire ecosystem of Silicon Valley to do so. It’s poisonously blind; they didn’t even think about the necessity of FEC compliance.

      If HRC’s campaign had come to them with the same team they probably would have done the same thing all over again — note though, that her team didn’t. They really didn’t need to in a campaign where every candidate was playing to the letter of the law as well as its spirit. This was HRC’s blindness; she wasn’t playing on a level field, ever, brought knives to an assault rifle range.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        Facebook, like a lot of tech companies, operates on the model where you try to pump up revenue by encouraging managers of business units to do whatever they can to bring in money to their own arena. The corporate culture is based on never telling clients you won’t do something, and having the execs try to rein in one bad actor would have sent a message to the rest of the company that the execs didn’t want to send.

        It’s a decentralized, anti-systematic management structure, as opposed to a place like Southwest Airlines, which has a much more focused and coordinated system.

        It would be hard to imagine Southwest managers in Chicago getting away with a scheme that made their jobs easier at the expense of the company as a whole or even managers at another airport. For Facebook, though, one subset of management deciding to give CA a ridiculous opportunity that could blow up in a lot of faces was just standard operating procedure.

        • orionATL says:

          thanks for this viewpoint.

          full disclosure: i have the highest regard for sw airlines. i fly it ever place i have that choice :)

        • Rayne says:

          One really big difference between the two business models you compared: Southwest Airlines and the rest of the air travel industry has a lot of regulation ensuring they can’t simply do whatever they want in terms of product offerings to make a buck. Facebook is nearly unregulated, and therein is the problem. The only time their business model shifts is in response to screaming from users or shareholders; by the time there’s screaming, damage done is quite bad, like the real time video of suicides or shootings they’ve had to address after the fact.

          This isn’t going to be politically correct, but the other huge problem Facebook and the rest of Big Tech share is a lack of customer-facing human interaction, combined with a corporate culture composed overwhelmingly by males who have been encouraged to compete and excel technically, measured by numbers. There’s a high concentration of men on the spectrum who miss social cues if they can even see them from inside the platform. They’re rewarded for focusing on the numbers, not on the people or the systemic impact on society. (Happens in software and hardware, too, like Microsoft’s BSODs and GM’s ignition switches.)

          • orionATL says:

            a) there is nothing i consider politically incorrect in this comment.

            b) as for regulation, one of the bugaboos of the moneymen like the kochs who are the prime support of the republican party, regulation is essential to the survival and sharing of the commons.

            to be specific, regulation (and law) of all sorts is essential in any country with 320 million citizens. it helps deal with the question of who gets what from the political system when. without regulation only the richest (or most violent) prevail to get their wants met in a political system.

            • Rayne says:

              One of the ways in which the Kochs have avoided regulation and incumbent transparency is the use of LLCs. They don’t have any C-corps. I’d really like to see the U.S. revisit LLCs with an expectation of public filings like C-corps once they reach a certain size and work in certain products/services (like fracking or chemicals).

  8. yogarhythms says:

    Thank you Rayne, excellent reporting. I’ve been thinking about, CW, CA whistle blower’s “…Bannon’s Mindfuck” weapon to steal elections. I think decades and decades of de-funding education or in some countries unfunded education has led to populations with so little reflective/introspective/critical thinking skills that tools from CA really work. I think the responsibility for electing a candidate begins with one person one vote. To believe CA’s press reports they guarantee results. Kenya, US, Brexit, to name a few successes. I’m a hopeless romantic and I want to believe an educated population isn’t susceptible to “Fake News” CA engineered “Rabbit holes”. I think there is a mechanism of mass or heard/pack (you pick) effect that hasn’t been quantified that is at work in the phenomenal success CA has had. Our charismatic dear leader won the lottery when he married Bannon/Mercer to MAGA.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      About bloody time.  I should think there’s enough there for the Met to be interested, too.  This is unlikely to be limited to misuse and abuse of data. But beware, Nix is an old Etonian and old boys protect their own.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Meanwhile, Trump responds to news of Comey’s already best-selling book as if Comey were about to violate one of McGahn’s crappy NDAs.  What you get when a rich guy who doesn’t read and understands less refuses to get good legal advice because he’s just self-aware enough to know he would never listen to it.

    Trump deserves all the downside his behavior warrants.  Here’s hoping that when he fails, he won’t land on the rest of America like a falling bridge onto a highway.

  10. Rugger9 says:

    CA may be in a lot more trouble in the UK. If Channel 4’s reporting is accurate I’m sure there is an Act or two criminalizing what is essentially organized blackmail. Look up what happened after Millie Dowling.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I suppose we should also ask, as EW suggests on twitter, what uses the USG (DOD, CIA, State) makes of FB and CA’s work. It might inhibit how hard the USG looks at the entire matter.

    • Eddie Torres says:

      From Carole Cadwalladr’s article with Chris Wylie: “When I ask how Bannon even found SCL, Wylie tells me what sounds like a tall tale, though it’s one he can back up with an email about how Mark Block, a veteran Republican strategist, happened to sit next to a cyberwarfare expert for the US Air Force on a plane. ‘And the cyberwarfare guy is like, ‘Oh, you should meet SCL. They do cyberwarfare for elections.'”

  12. terian says:

    Channel 4 will be airing another video tomorrow. This is so disgusting. Smug little bastards. I loved how when selling their services how they just talked up the video as proof to sway most effectively the stupid public. Let them now claim ‘FALSE” over a video of them bragging on their clever corruption. So maybe a movement to bring back our public funded elections for the sake of our democracy? One would hope….

  13. orionATL says:

    it’s small consolation, but if this story chan 4 is putting together holds up, together with ca architect christopher wylies’ confessions, then even if mueller is deposed, the media (that cares) may have enough of a sense of where the story of the trump campaign’s election manipulation is going to pursue it until trump’s legitimacy and credibility have been entirely destroyed.

  14. greengiant says:

    We commenters have been over this before.  Nix is not an outlier.  Blackmail and economic espionage are on top in the US permitted saving and sale of all web clicks by Internst Service Providers, adware and web site cookies, search engine histories. Remember the tin foil that Breitbart’s search engine was Yandex. That said, CA and FB may lead the pack in active feedback collection. All web sites are meta data honeypots, and mal actors drop mal links and provaction into comments..

    • maybe ryan says:

      I don’t buy this.  If blackmail were so common, we’d hear about it more.  The idea that campaigns and private entities as part of those campaigns offer bribes or prostitutes as a routine method of entrapment and blackmail is ridiculous – it takes one honest person or even one wary person to fuck the entire enterprise and send people to prison on it.

      I suspect internet history may be a self-censorship factor – where people don’t run for office or take strong political positions because of fear and uncertainty about how/whether their internet history might somehow be leveraged against them.

  15. matt says:

    (reply in comment not working)

    @greengiant, yes… it may even be hard to pin criminal wrongdoing on CA, for operating within the parameters of digital advertising… But, maybe ties between those dirty tricks “sub-contractors” and campaign associates will turn up. Nevertheless, this new direction will delegitimize Trump (as orionATL said above), and emphasize the Alt-Right conspiracy behind his win.

  16. SirLurksAlot says:

    I expect to that Scotland Yard are going to bring a few more armed guards to the CA server download party than Orestes Fintiklis did at the Trump Ocean Hotel in Panama.  May’s nose has already transformed to like 80% of Iron Lady level, and right now she’s so pissed off about novichok that the shitshow on the other side of the pond is just getting started. brite & early zulu time

    • Rayne says:

      May’s got a little problem, though. She was seeking CA’s services herself. Dis gonna’ be good. *unfolds lawn chair*

      What I want to know is when the Tories and Labour are going to clue in and realize this is the PERFECT excuse to halt Article 50 and pull back on Brexit until an investigation into undue, illegal influence has been completed.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I’m sure they are on it, if Labour’s Corbyn doesn’t mention it the SNP rep (Ian Blackburn?) most certainly will within the next couple of weeks.

        On the other hand, apparently there is a leaked draft agreement on Brexit, which may serve to blunt the effect IF everything the UK wants is in it (which I doubt).

        • Rayne says:

          IIRC, the draft totally botches the relationship between Britain and Northern Ireland in contradiction to a promise May made last year. I really think they need to bin everything and consider a fresh referendum.

          • TheraP says:

            AMEN! To a new referendum!

            And I’m hoping the British Justice system is less compromised than ours! They may be the Cavalry I’ve been hoping for.

            This whole thing seems to be building to a crescendo – a crisis of crescendos – with news coming so fast my head is spinning!

            I hope the good guys win. Otherwise… OMG!

          • Rugger9 says:

            Not just for Brexit, but also for Scotland as well, given how the Tories in Westminster made it quite clear how willing they are to run roughshod over the Scottish Parliament.  The SNP for its part (in spite of Tory taunts) is not looking at another referendum on independence until the Brexit question is answered.  However, they are also clear that the current plan is not acceptable, not least because devolved powers are being shanghaied back to Westminster.

  17. Eddie Torres says:

    Remember way WAY back in 2011 when HBGary Federal and Thiel’s Palantir and Berico “Technologies” set up Team Themis to sabotage Occupy and opponents of CoC and BofA? Some people at the time said, “HBGary Federal had also worked to sell ‘persona management’ solutions to the US government for cyber intelligence work.” (Lee Fang, ThinkProgress: “Fake Facebook Identity Used By Military Contractors Plotting To Hack Progressive Organizations”)

    Stephen Webster at Raw Story alleged that Air Force (US CyberCommand) contracts for “persona management software” could operate through geographically specific VPNs to spoof social networks. (Raw Story: “Air Force ordered software to manage army of fake virtual people”)

    And, from Carole Cadwalladr’s March 18 article:

    (1) “…the British government has paid SCL to conduct counter-extremism operations in the Middle East, and the US Department of Defense has contracted it to work in Afghanistan.”

    (2) “When I ask how Bannon even found SCL, Wylie tells me what sounds like a tall tale, though it’s one he can back up with an email about how Mark Block, a veteran Republican strategist, happened to sit next to a cyberwarfare expert for the US Air Force on a plane. ‘And the cyberwarfare guy is like, ‘Oh, you should meet SCL. They do cyberwarfare for elections.'” (The Guardian: “‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower”)

  18. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Zuckerberg is fuckerberg:

    Mr. Stamos first put together a group of engineers to scour Facebook for Russian activity in June 2016, the month the Democratic National Committee announced it had been attacked by Russian hackers, the current and former employees said.
    By November 2016, the team had uncovered evidence that Russian operatives had aggressively pushed DNC leaks and propaganda on Facebook. That same month, Mr. Zuckerberg publicly dismissed the notion that fake news influenced the 2016 election, calling it a “pretty crazy idea.”

    If Facebook’s shareholders had any power over the company — which they don’t, apart from its CEO — they’d shut it down tomorrow.

    • Rayne says:

      Wondering who the largest shareholder is — if Zuck still is, it doesn’t matter. Uses and stock market need to thrash him by exiting.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        And will always have a controlling stake (because of the different voting rights for different stock classes) unless he votes it away.

    • TheraP says:

      I’m so glad I never joined. But apparently they’ve built “profiles” even of people who have been refusniks.

      I hope people leave them in droves! May their stock become worthless.

      With apologies to Zechariah, “Over [the good guys] I will pour out a spirit of kindness and prayer.”

      And thanks to the Psalmist: “I will break the teeth of the wicked!”

  19. jd12 says:

    That’s a ton of info in one short video, and with The Guardian whistle blower revelations there’s a spotlight to shine on the elections of the past few years.  Both Nix and Turnbull explicitly state in the video that the truth isn’t important in election campaigns. Turnbull says it’s about provoking someone’s emotions without them realizing it. You can tell Breitbart does that just from looking at the front page at any time, the Mercer/Bannon connection to CA now proves there are no morals and it’s deliberate. There’s no better example than the provocative Erik Prince interview right before the election saying NYPD was going to make a bunch of arrests in the Weiner case.

    Twitter must also be significant but I haven’t heard much on that yet. Most of Trump’s tweets are designed to get a reaction. And there’s no easier way to spread fake news than with a retweet.

    Sounds like this is just the beginning, CA tested Trump slogans as early as 2014?

  20. maybe ryan says:

    These are good points.

    But ultimately, a lot of the CA stuff is just amplification of existing methods of both parties and all professional campaign apparatus – inflating small hot button issues to drive emotional reactions from people who don’t pay enough critical attention to think about how they’re being manipulated.  In my state rep race today, the Dem speaker of the state house used pushed $600K on ads blasting the chief competitor as a shill for Trump and Repub Gov. Rauner.  (She’s the former school board president of the most liberal community in the state, a lifelong Democrat.)

    She would cast normal Democratic votes on everything except speaker of the house and the various corruption votes that come up.

    But no one else has money, and boy, voters hate Trump and Rauner, so if that’s all they hear, it’s effective.

    So how do we counter it?  How do we teach voters to ignore bullshit?  Why do people even listen to ads at all?  FB and CA aren’t the disease.  They’re just the vector.

    • TheraP says:

      The GOP has systematically destroyed public education!

      Unless we regain control and make sure public education improves, we will find voters who have never learned to THINK!

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