back to article Cambridge Analytica CEO suspended – and that's not even the worst news for them today

For the fourth straight day, Cambridge Analytica is scrambling in the wake of damning media reports. The embattled London-based biz suspended its CEO Alexander Nix on Tuesday after the UK's Channel 4 aired yet another news report – this time showing Nix claiming to have run the "digital campaign" for US President Donald Trump' …

  1. ah umaway

    Re: As a non Facebook user*, let me just say...

    Your gym sells your data to Facebook, even though you never go there.

    So does your supermarket.

    So do most Apps in both the play store and iTunes.

    So do several other websites, memberships.

    Here in the Netherlands all National newspapers do so too.

  2. rmason Silver badge

    Re: As a non Facebook user*, let me just say...

    @phuzz

    That.

    It's tricky to avoid too. I'm a twitter user and each time it updates on my phone I have to again say "no" to the "hey, did you know we can help you find more of your friends on twitter??"

    What that means is (just like FB) they have permission to hoover through all of the linked up contact stuff on your phone.

    The last thing I want is to follow our companies CTO on twitter, or for him to see me for example. But as we both have each others numbers saved we are one click (from either of us) away from being suggested to each other after the data harvest.

  3. J.Smith

    I think Hillary's team will be kicking themselves that they missed a trick.

  4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Hillary's team had excellent third generation get-out-the-vote software inherited from Obama and improved during 2012-2016. Such software is worth about 5% of the vote so it is only deployed in marginal states. Basically, volunteers get a list of people to call and remind that it is election day. The Republicans attempted something similar in 2012 but the software was utter crap. The polling for the 2016 election was off by about 6%, so in the last days of the election Hillary deployed her resources in the wrong states.

    Mercer's software came as a surprise to everyone. It included an effective GOTV component, plus adverts individually targeted to persuadable people in marginal states so they would vote Trump (to drain the swamp, keep the Mexicans out, because Hillary is the devil or be so corrupt that the federal government would destroy itself) or stay at home because Bernie wasn't nominated.

    I think is says something about a company when Julian Assange's ethics prevented a deal.

    [For those of you thinking targeted ads are useless, Mercer and Google have very different goals. Mercer wants to quietly persuade just enough people swing an election. Google ads are to drain the advertising budget of their clients.]

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Basically, volunteers get a list of people to call"

    Either things work differently in the US or the best use of this would be to pretend to be the other side and call their supporters. From my PoV it would be "I was thinking of voting for you but as you've called a TPS-registered number I won't".

  6. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    Devil

    Didn't the Tories do something similar in Glasgow* in the 70s?

    Only in their case, they took an election car with a loudhailer, covered it with Labour stickers, turned up the PA to 11 and drove round the housing estates at 3am shouting "vote Labour".

    Memory escapes me whether that worked...

    * I only think Glasgow because I was told this by an English teacher who comes from Glasgow.

  7. Carpet Deal 'em

    > Either things work differently in the US or the best use of this would be to pretend to be the other side and call their supporters.

    Good call monitoring would avoid this for the most part. But it seems Hillary was extra stupid and just handed out the list to people to call from the comfort of their own home, because I seem to remember /pol/ doing just this.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    [For those of you thinking targeted ads are useless, Mercer and Google have very different goals. Mercer wants to quietly persuade just enough people swing an election. Google ads are to drain the advertising budget of their clients.]

    If I were them (meaning all the usual suspects) I would take ALL the advertising money AND use my platform monopoly to manipulate voters in favor of 'tech-friendly' candidates.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course it is...

    The board is shocked, shocked! to discover there's election rigging going on in here!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Of course it is...

    Here are your winnings, sir.

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Trollface

    And, in other news, the first flight to Mars has been booked solid in advance.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why is data on Facebook wide open?

    I can name a fair few scraping tools which will reveal addresses, email addresses and phone numbers. This is why I am not on Facef*ck and will never be, unless I'm collecting data to sell off.

  13. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Re: Why is data on Facebook wide open?

    IoT level security laziness. You are supposed to buy data from directly Facebook, not scrape it for academic purposes and sell it to Cambridge Analytica.

  14. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Re: Why is data on Facebook wide open?

    He says he's a third party being used as a scapegoat.

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Re: Why is data on Facebook wide open?

    "This is why I am not on Facef*ck "

    That doesn't matter, the scrapers have you anyway.

  16. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Devil

    Unfortunately...

    A hydra has more than one head.

  17. Chris G Silver badge

    Re: Unfortunately...

    It sounds as though you are thinking what I'm thinking, if Farcebook goes to the wall, there is no way all that data will be flushed down the toilet, someone else will take up where FB left off. Probably a front company like Air America was.

  18. Denarius Silver badge

    not that new either

    back in the day, newspaper owners/editors published stories that suited their owners/clients/pet lapdogs. Just electronic and more personal now. Given the average punters preferences for a false dichotomy (two party preferred system to you) I do not see any reason to think much will change until truth in advertising applies to everything and all political advertising is limited to half a page of tabloid maximum. A two week election blackout except for polling stations locations may help also so punters have some silence at crucial time to remember what the various lots have been up to during their whole term.

  19. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

    Re: not that new either

    Spot on - USA Today was distributing different editions of the paper in different parts of the country during the election cycle.

    Basically the process that has been used to good effect in the past has been automated, allowing more customization across a larger target population. Discussed in the abstract it's really a logical progression. It's the specifics where things get quite murky.

  20. kmac499

    Let's all blame the developer

    LIstening to the steam radio this morning (Wed 21st) Camridge Analytica and Facebook seem to be blaming Dr Kogan the academic who wrote the harvesting app. (what's the betting the actual coder was an undergrad called Colin?)

    Just proving the eternal truth that when shit hits the IT Fan the managers blame the developers.

    BTW:- For several years we ( me and the SO) have taken part in a longitudinal social survey organised by a UK university. Once a year a reseacher pops round with a laptop and questionnaire. We are interviewed seperately and for the more personal questions we are handed the laptop or we can refuse the questions altogether. As a thankyou we recieve a £10 shopping voucher.

  21. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: Let's all blame the developer

    "For several years we ( me and the SO) have taken part in a longitudinal social survey organised by a UK university. Once a year a reseacher pops round with a laptop and questionnaire."

    Does a Heisenberg principle apply to this sort of thing? Does being surveyed regularly influence the way you form views? And how would a researcher test that?

  22. Bill M

    Re: Let's all blame the developer

    I suspected Colin was behind all this, he's a right evil piece of work. But Colin is just a pseudonym that Beezelbub uses.

  23. Forget It
    Joke

    World got shafted big time:

    Base Fook

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook shocked?

    I think this post puts it into perspective about what is known and what is not known by facebook.

    link

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You are not allowed to steal Facebook data for advertising

    Only Facebook are allowed to exploit that data for profit.

  26. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    So what has SCL (CA's parent) "learned" from this sorry tale?

    "Vet potential clients much more thoroughly." *

    *CA's sales pitch is basically "We win your election for you"

    No qualifications about your suitability.

    No qualifications about wheather the other candidate(s) is/are better than you.

    No qualifications about how we will do it.

    This is basically the SOP for any marketing/advertising but this in an election contest and they are being much more covert about it. The appearance (on social media) of being "just normal folk like you" which is fact total bu***hit.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: So what has SCL (CA's parent) "learned" from this sorry tale?

    In fairness, marketing firms do turn away some sketchy clients when they're at all successful, and CA claims to be the best (which, to be fair, they all claim :)

    Nobody wants to work for dishonest losers with dubious finances when they can work for relatively honest clients with loads of money.

  28. sabroni Silver badge

    The entire company is outraged we were deceived.

    So you're either complete fucking idiots or lying shysters. Which is it?

  29. LucreLout Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Re: The entire company is outraged we were deceived.

    So you're either complete fucking idiots or lying shysters. Which is it?

    Why can't it be both?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the land of the great unwashed we are sheep being herded by shepherds from all sides.

    I'm going to dig a hole and grow juniper bushes to get away from it all.

  31. Marcus000

    AC: I got a spade. Can I join you?

    Didn't there used to be a phrase,"Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers"? No wonder there was/is such a battle for the internet.

  32. Tromos

    Insider Trading?

    Is anyone looking into Zuckerberg's sale of shares prior to the price drop he knew was coming? People have been jailed for profiting by less than a hundredth of the amount he picked up.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Insider Trading?

    That's to be expected. The more money someone has the less likely it is that they will be jailed.

    And, of course, people have gone to prison for insider trading during which they accidentally lost money.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Insider Trading?

    Yes, finance journos have looked into him. Seems he's done nothing improper, simply a series of scheduled stock sales announced publicly months in advance. I remember seeing reports about that. One of many clues that FB was dying.

    There's talk of prosecuting FB for failing to disclose the degree of mass privacy invasion to investors. I assume FB's covered its ass with weasel words, though.

  35. Horridbloke

    It was already dying

    FB usage amongst my associates peaked a good few years ago. Of my 150-ish "friends" the only regular posters are relatively recent converts. As a behavioural thing it seems to me to be something people just get bored of and stop doing after a bit. That does leave them with personal data, but I've compromised that a bit by entering massively inaccurate personal data.

    I laughed a lot when I saw the share price this week - never mind the drop, how the heck did it get that high? - then remembered my pension fund probably has a stake in it somewhere.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: It was already dying

    Even if people stop using it what about all those websites that link through to Facebook anyway that they visit. Do you think they don't log that when they log into the account via a third party website or app?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Media and Twittersphere outrage......

    .....but pure misdirection.

    *

    The NSA, GCHQ, the Russians....and an endless list of other bad actors have been doing similar things for years (c.f. Snowden papers).....and not a peep from the journalists.

    *

    So what changed this week? Nothing....absolutely nothing at all!

  38. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: Media and Twittersphere outrage......

    "So what changed this week?"

    Publicity. It achieved critical mass.

  39. gbru2606

    Re: Media and Twittersphere outrage......

    "So what changed this week? Nothing....absolutely nothing at all!"

    Is it possible that the news might ultimately fail to reveal that a Referendum in the UK and the US election were both won as an arms-length black-ops operation by GCHQ and NSA? Unthinkable?

  40. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm"

    I take it the values or operations not represented amount to "don't get caught".

  41. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Values and such

    I take it the values or operations not represented amount to "don't get caught".

    Quite

  42. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    $40k?

    "Facebook could be on the hook for $40,000 per person affected"

    Hello big data grabbers, you can have all my Facebook data for a discount rate of $39,000, this week only, yours to keep. I'll be the smug git with the paid off mortgage and new motor.

  43. bitten

    Re: $40k?

    My reaction: 40k, probably too late to create a facebook account

  44. Danny 2 Silver badge

    I find it very suspicious that the ICO still doesn't have a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica, or that they haven't responded to CA's claims that the company had been cooperating contrary to ICO claims.

    I noticed one US commentator claiming Cambridge Analytica's Facebook micro-targetting can't be that effective because it didn't work for Ted Cruz, and secondly because they wouldn't have to offer dirty tricks and honey traps if it did.

    I don't find that convincing because Cruz lost in the Primaries, and perhaps was intended by Mercer to lose. It seems to have worked elsewhere including Kenya, although we can't know how many times it failed to swing an election, but it seems criminally reckless in Kenya due to previous electoral violence there. Indeed, even to consider a Sri Lankan client is morally bankrupt for the same reason.

    This is at least as big a scandal as the NotW hacking scandal, and I'd suggest banning the Mercer family from any corporate involvement in the UK.

  45. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Pirate

    Too mild

    I'd suggest banning the Mercer family from any oxygen use.

  46. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Also can’t discount the possibility that Ted Cruz is too repulsive even for American voters.

  47. harmjschoonhoven

    Re: Too mild

    Re: I'd suggest banning the Mercer family from any oxygen use.

    You are not suggesting a few mg of Novichok, are you? Naughty, naughty!

    BTW what is that Facebook thing they are writing about, I never visited their website.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > I noticed one US commentator claiming Cambridge Analytica's Facebook micro-targetting can't be that effective because it didn't work for Ted Cruz

    I think it's ineffective because the sentiment of "likes" is murky, and FB is full of fake names and demographic info. On political topics, real people's sentiments may actually be lost in the noise from shills and bots. There are loads of data-bombing antics as well: "Boaty McBoatface" and "Penis Flood" and "Hitler Did Nothing Wrong" to name a few legendary ones.

    OTOH it's a goldmine for targeted advertising, phishing, and stalking. Friends lists, contact info, birthdays, favorite brands, interests and obsessions, embarrassing photos, drunken comments, etc.

    For what it's worth (you can find this on Fox, Breitbart, etc) the Trump campaign claimed it didn't work for them either. They only bought the CA data because the RNC establishment denied them access to its voter data... until a month before the election. They tested both datasets, found RNC's to be much higher quality, and never used CA's. So they claim.

  49. tom dial Silver badge

    Re: Too mild

    The Mercers, like you and I and all other (US person) commenters on this and other threads here and on other sites, exercised rights guaranteed by the first amendment to the US constitution. Their chosen vehicle might have broken laws, but it does not, in fact, seem overly likely even based on Nix's fairly stupid statements to the fake Sri Lankans as shown in the linked CH4 video.

  50. tom dial Silver badge

    A skeptical question from a Facebook nonuser (for practical purposes): troland, earlier, asserts that FB data "is a goldmine for targeted advertising." I wonder if this actually is justified based on measured results, or are the advertisers also drinking snake oil?

    I lean toward granting the accompanying points about phishing and especially stalking on the basis of their plausibility; that's one reason I mostly avoid Facebook.

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