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Facebook data misuse and voter manipulation back in the frame with latest Cambridge Analytica leaks

More details are emerging about the scale and scope of disgraced data company Cambridge Analyticas activities in elections around the world via a cache of internal documents thats being released by former employee and self-styled whistleblower, Brittany Kaiser.
The now shut down data modelling company, which infamously used stolen Facebook data to target voters for President Donald Trumps campaign in the 2016 U.S. election, was at the center of the data misuse scandal that, in 2018, wiped billions off Facebooks share price and contributed to a $5BN FTC fine for the tech giant last summer.
However plenty of questions remain, including where, for whom and exactly how Cambridge Analytica and its parent entity SCL Elections operated; as well as how much Facebooks leadership knew about the dealings of the firm that was using its platform to extract data and target political ads helped by some of Facebooks own staff.
Certain Facebook employees were referring to Cambridge Analytica as a sketchy company as far back as September 2015 yet the tech giant only pulled the plug on platform access after the scandal went global in 2018.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also continued to maintain that he only personally learned about CA from a December 2015 Guardian article, which broke the story that Ted Cruzs presidential campaign was using psychological data based on research covering tens of millions of Facebook users, harvested largely without permission. (It wasnt until March 2018 that further investigative journalism blew the lid off the story turning it into a global scandal.)
Former Cambridge Analytica business development director Kaiser, who had a central role in last years Netflix documentary about the data misuse scandal (The Great Hack), began her latest data dump late last week publishing links to scores of previously unreleased internal documents via a Twitter account called @HindsightFiles. (At the time of writing Twitter has placed a temporary limit on viewing the account citing unusual activity, presumably as a result of the volume of downloads its attracting.)
Since becoming part of the public CA story Kaiser has been campaigning for Facebook to grant users property rights over their data. She claims shes releasing new documents from her former employer now because shes concerned this years US election remains at risk of the same type of big-data-enabled voter manipulation that tainted the 2016 result.
Im very fearful about what is going to happen in the US election later this year, and I think one of the few ways of protecting ourselves is to get as much information out there as possible, she told The Guardian.
Democracies around the world are being auctioned to the highest bidder, is the tagline clam on the Twitter account Kaiser is using to distribute the previously unpublished documents more than 100,000 of which are set to be released over the coming months, per the newspapers report.
The releases are being grouped into countries with documents to-date covering Brazil, Kenya and Malaysia. There is also a themed release dealing with issues pertaining to Iran, and another covering CA/SCLs work for Republican John Boltons Political Action Committee in the U.S.
The releases look set to underscore the global scale of CA/SCLs social media-fuelled operations, with Kaiser writing that the previously unreleased emails, project plans, case studies and negotiations span at least 65 countries.
A spreadsheet of associate officers included in the current cache lists SCL associates in a large number of countries and regions including Australia, Argentina, the Balkans, India, Jordan, Lithuania, the Philippines, Switzerland and Turkey, among others. A second tab listing potential associates covers political and commercial contacts in various other places including Ukraine and even China.
A UK parliamentary committee which investigated online political campaigning and voter manipulation in 2018 taking evidence from Kaiser and CA whistleblower Chris Wylie, among others urged the government to audit the PR and strategic communications industry, warning in its final report how easy it is for discredited companies to reinvent themselves and potentiallyuse the same data and the same tactics to underminegovernments, including in the UK.
Data analytics firms have played a key role in elections around the world. Strategic communications companies frequently run campaigns internationally, which are financed by less than transparent means and employ legally dubious methods, the DCMS committee also concluded.
The committees final report highlighted election and referendum campaigns SCL Elections (and its myriad associated companies) had been involved in in around thirty countries. But per Kaisers telling its activities and/or ambitions appear to have been considerably broader and even global in scope.
Documents released to date include a case study of work that CA was contracted to carry out in the U.S. for Boltons Super PAC where it undertook what is described as a personality-targeted digital advertising campaign with three interlocking goals: to persuade voters to elect Republican Senate candidates in Arkansas, North Carolina and New Hampshire; to elevate national security as an issue of importance and to increase public awareness of Ambassador Boltons Super PAC.
Here CA writes that it segmented persuadable and low-turnout voter populations to identify several key groups that could be influenced by Bolton Super PAC messaging, targeting them with online and Direct TV ads designed to appeal directly to specific groups personality traits, priority issues and demographics.




Psychographic profiling derived from CAs modelling of Facebook user data was used to segment U.S. voters into targetable groups, including for serving microtargeted online ads. The company badged voters with personality-specific labels such as highly neurotic targeting individuals with customized content designed to pray on their fears and/or hopes based on its analysis of voters personality traits.


#CONSCIENTIOUS? As in do you care about your #children & talk about them on social media? Well, then your data has been categorized to say this is the message @AmbJohnBolton + #CambridgeAnalytica had for you #NorthCarolina #Hindsightis2020 https://t.co/yYYDm9UTNA pic.twitter.com/C0gHa1fdGG
Hindsight is 2020 (@HindsightFiles) January 3, 2020
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