back to article Facebook confirms Cambridge Analytica stole its data; it’s a plot, claims former director

Facebook has “suspended” any business with controversial analytics firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) and its holding company, following claims by CA’s former director that the social media ad slinger’s data was purloined and used for political dirty tricks. In a statement Facebook said that in April 2015 Dr Aleksandr Kogan, a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fake News!!

    Well, the article is essentially accurate. Facebook's statement is misleading.

    Truth is, most Facebook apps "steal" its (users') data, and so can you. Sign up for a developer account, fool around with the Graph API, and be amazed at all the user info you can collect. It's legit if you use the data according to the Terms of Service and "stealing" if you don't - and Facebook will never know the difference unless you brag too much.

    https://developers.facebook.com/docs/graph-api/reference/user

    https://developers.facebook.com/docs/graph-api/reference/user-context

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fake News!!

      No it is not legit, doesn’t matter what the terms of service say, you have to still do this strange thing called complying with the law. Most of these apps etc. that leech data are breaking the law, at least anywhere in the EU.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Fake News!!

        Facebook's got the data, they should make sure that anyone who uses their API has the right to get at that data.

        If Facebook were so clever, they would have managed to make a big matrix of from-to countries by now so they can automatically deny data to people who shouldn't have it, unless they've previously applied to Facebook showing they've got Privacy Shield or something.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Fake News!!

          they would have managed to make a big matrix

          That would have dropped their advertising revenues considerably. It is difficult to judge by how much, but an educated guesstimate of 50% would not be that far off.

      2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Fake News!!

        And you have a Facebook account?

        If you read the article... the theft is that the Good Professor got access to the data for Research and that he later monetized the use of his algos and the data gleaned from FB. Its only theft because only FB wants to be able to monetized their data.

        Its really not theft but breech of contract, but it sounds better to claim that the company which paid the good professor for the data and his algos 'stole' the data.

        There are a few takeaways...

        1) Most people on FB are foolish and don't understand that TANSTAAFL and that they are the product.

        2) While not theft, it's a question of breech of contract on the Professor's part. The company bought something that the professor had no right to sell.

        3) There will be a lawsuit over this... a couple of government investigations that go no where, and most people who had their data used will not understand the fuss and go meh.

        Life will go on, and Zuck will still be worth billions because Gruber was right.

        1. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Fake News!!

          Most people on FB are foolish and don't understand that TANSTAAFL and that they are the product.

          'they are the lunch'

          FTFY

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Fake News!!

          "Most people on FB are foolish and don't understand that TANSTAAFL and that they are the product."

          And one way of dealing with that is to pollute the feed with so much crap that it becomes worthless

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Fake News!!

      I think people who are not using Facebook should sue Facebook and its stupid users for damages...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fake News!!

        Just impose an annual digital taxation and rental fee to keep their account and pages alive.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fake News!!

        "I think people who are not using Facebook should sue Facebook and its stupid users for damages..."

        And if they are not using it, what are the damages they could sue for?

        1. LDS Silver badge
          Devil

          "And if they are not using it, what are the damages they could sue for?"

          The damages made to society and people lives, of course... which impact also those who was clever enough to understand what clearly dangerous idea Facebook itself was - and is more and more.

          Facebook is a kind of big pollution, a social pollution, but still pollution. It's toxic. And you can sue a polluter even if you're not using its products...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "And if they are not using it, what are the damages they could sue for?"

            "The damages made to society and people lives, of course..."

            "Of course" says someone clearly clueless. To be able to sue, quantifiable damage has to have been done to you. And in this case, you would have needed to be part of facebook to have been impacted.

        2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          @AC Re: Fake News!!

          Because I don't use FB, does FB have the right to collect and compile data on me?

          The question becomes one of right of privacy since I never entered into an agreement with FB to capture data about me, a non user.

          So if a friend uploads a photo where I'm in the shot, does that give FB the right to tag me? Track me? spy on me?

          That's the real question.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: @AC Fake News!!

            "That's the real question."

            And in the EU the answer is "no".

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fake News!!

          How about damages because of FB users uploading their phone contacts details that include non-FB users names, addresses, email address and phone numbers ?

          1. ravenviz

            Re: Fake News!!

            One would assume that a Facebook user would need formally to Friend any such found contacts, and for that Friend to accept for those data to be be retained by Facebook.

            However one does also wonder how the ‘People you may know’ function works as some offerings do seem to be uncanny and unconnected to any direct links on Facebook itself. But then they do have clever algorithms that maybe can use allowed data creatively.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fake News!!

        The more interesting thing to note is that even if you have never setup a facebook account, there's a(t least one) facebook profile for you in existence already.

        FB have been data stalking people for a long time and putting together profiles based on what they can assemble. One of the more interesting questions is how accessible these ghost profiles are to the APIs.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Consider this very carefully:

      People are jumping about on this because someone 'stole' the data from Facebook.

      But Facebook could do exactly the same thing - with what is 'their' data without telling anyone - and they have *all* of it, not just a rather large chunk of it to work from.

      1. BrianW

        Re: Consider this very carefully:

        Facebook already DOES do the exact same thing. They have an official staffed division to use the data they collect for political purposes. They even bragged about it during the Obama administration.

      2. sprograms

        Re: Consider this very carefully:

        "A former Obama campaign official is claiming that Facebook knowingly allowed them to mine massive amounts of Facebook data — more than they would’ve allowed someone else to do — because they were supportive of the campaign.

        In a Sunday tweet thread, Carol Davidson, former director of integration and media analytics for Obama for America, said the 2012 campaign led Facebook to “suck out the whole social graph” and target potential voters. They would then use that data to do things like append their email lists."

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fake News!!

      "What Facebook is peeved about is that the data was collected under an academic license and then sold commercially"

      So if they had paid for it that would be OK?!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Videos

      I actually watched the first one a few days ago: highly recommended.

      Also tried to watch 4 News video just now. Gave up at 1:34 still within that idiotic introduction complete with bloke in a hoodie and some python scrolling across Matrix-like, plus the voice-over was annoying and ridiculous. And then they wonder why people don't take the news seriously any more.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: Fake News!!

      Who the hell is accurate on social media? For instance, although I am indeed a dog (woof), I'm not made of tea.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Boffin

        @tea hound ... Re: Fake News!!

        You do realize that FB and Google have a way to tie your alias to your real id?

        Yeah...

        When you consider that... you're not as hidden as you think.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Fake News!!

        "Who the hell is accurate on social media?"

        'Teh intarwebs' where men are men, women are men, children are old perverts that live in their mother's basement, etc.

        It's always funny to see men behaving differently in an IRC channel because they think "a girl" is in there, and they hang around "the girl" like a harem, but more likely than not, she isn't someone who's interested in guys anyway... and yet it's SO funny to sit back and watch the posturing, like a bunch of peacocks.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fake News!!

      Agreed,

      I have been warning users about apps that use the Facebook Graph API for over a year and a half.

      It all started when I received a fake virus warning on my brand new Android phone (Alcatel) that linked to an "Anti-Hacking/Cleaner/Battery-Saver" app on the Google Play Store.

      I did some research and found that users had been tricked into installing the app through the fake virus warnings every single day for over 3 years straight.

      I also studied other apps that lured users with fraudulent virus warnings and they ALL had one thing in common....every single one of the dodgy apps had the Facebook Graph API embedded in them.

      So you could imagine just how angry I was that after a year and a half of warning others about dodgy apps that slurp social media data when, without warning or permission, my own phone manufacturer (Alcatel) silenty pushed an unwanted "update" on to all it's devices that modified the system File Manager, Launcher and others to include the Graph API that was collecting user Facebook "Likes" and Twitter "#HASHTAGS" as well as pushing advertising and ignored all complaints from angry Alcatel owners.

      Facebook is 100% responsible for not monitoring how developers and advertisers are using (and abusing) users data.

      And I wonder why this is only now becoming "breaking news" only because it is somehow linked to conservatives?

  2. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Once their preferences had been cataloged a Cambridge Analytica computer worked out what types of emotional and visual messages would sway their views

    Seems to me, there's a huge gap between capturing data and analysing it and actually using that to produce a strategy that worked.

    I think CA have been given too much credit or US citizens are just gullible and easily manipulated.

    No one say Brexit.

    1. Bill M

      Brexit !!!

      1. Aqua Marina Silver badge

        SHHHHHHHHHHH!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: SHHHHHHHHHHH!

          Well that's the approach the BBC (otherwise known as Her Mistress's Voice) appear to be taking.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I think CA have been given too much credit

      Yes. Trump announced his candidacy in August 2015 and I said something to to this effect: "Don't laugh. He's going to win. Nobody wants another career politician for President."

      According to the article, his campaign only hired CA five months before the election - around May 2016 - when he already appeared unstoppable. And don't forget, the Clinton Machine had been doing this voter analytics crap for decades. So if it really mattered, she would have won by a landslide.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Nobody wants another career politician for President."

        Meh, it's not as if he's the first blow-in from another career...

        He was just the wrong man, in the right place at the right time with the right 'up yours' attitude. People voted, ever hopeful, in the expectation that he would shake things up a good bit....

        Most of the money spent on election is wasted, people vote on the personality. Trump has personality (even if it is mostly objectionable), Clinton never really shone.

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          @Teiwaz

          Most of the money spent on election is wasted, people vote on the personality. Trump has personality (even if it is mostly objectionable), Clinton never really shone.

          Craigslist/Private Eye wanted ad...

          Aspiring politician seeks to acquire a personality. Money no object.

          MZ, Menlo Park, California

          1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

            "Aspiring politician seeks to acquire a personality. Money no object."

            Why bother? Failed fireplace salesman Williamson has become a minister without bothering to acquire one.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Trump has personality (even if it is mostly objectionable), Clinton never really shone."

            Are you serious?! Trump is an arsehole with a severe charisma deficit. Clinton has overwhelmingly better social and personality skills.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              But people like Trump because he says what he thinks and doesn't sugar coat it. Covfefe.

              She just told people what analytics said they wanted to hear, which was often contradictory from one target demographic to another.

        2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          @Teiwaz, Not even close...

          Trump has a keen sense of what people want and what they don't want.

          The real reason Trump won was that Hillary was soooo bad as a candidate.

          There's rumors that the MSM helped Trump by giving him a lot of free air time because they didn't think he'll win the primary or could beat Clinton in the main election.

          The election was sooo tilted in Clinton's favor, its her own fault.

          1) Mail Server... she set it up (w Obama's blessing) as a way to avoid having her communication available for FOIA and the Official Records Act. Were it not for Guccifer busting her... she would have gotten away with it.

          2) She avoided campaigning in the Midwest. Seriously. Three states went to Trump which was the difference. Clinton was so sure she had them in the bag, she hung out with the rich elite in Hollywood rather than hang with the plebs.

          There's more and over the next couple of years, it will come out just how far Obama, the DNC and Clinton went to steal the election. Just ask Bernie.

          Seriously... if you're an American, regardless of your political beliefs... A serious set of criminal acts occurred and you should be outraged. This will be Obama's legacy. This will be Hillary Clinton's legacy.

          A criminal conspiracy too big to prosecute. Or so they hope.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Teiwaz, Not even close...

            > There's rumors that the MSM helped Trump by giving him a lot of free air time

            IIRC it was nonstop Trump-bashing once he started winning primaries. How many people said "If the MSM and the current government are lined up against him, he's got my vote"? Especially when it became clear that Sanders would not be an alternative, due to the more effective (and equally blatant) conspiracy against him.

            Fucking amateur totalitarians.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: @Teiwaz, Not even close...

              "IIRC it was nonstop Trump-bashing once he started winning primaries. "

              Who was it who said "there's no such thing as bad publicity" ?

              One of the more paradoxical things about negative media reports about companies (eg, XYZ gets hacked, billions of user records leaked) is that it results in a spike in customer numbers for that company in the ensuing weeks.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "actually using that to produce a strategy that worked"

      Actually, it can work. Maybe not at very large scale yet, but it's mostly a way to target propaganda.

      Categorizing people's "feelings" is actually feasible. I've collaborated with university researches who did it (using Twitter also). Once you can build groups, you can target them with ad-hoc propaganda - and that, like advertising, knows very well how to take advantage of people's weak sides.

      After all, Facebook was already using "sentiment analysis" to better target and made more efficient advertising. Probably they are more angry someone else could use their data to achieve it and make money without paying them than anything else.

      This was difficult to achieve before for the lack of good datasets, and no way to target the "right" groups/people directly. Something was done obliquely, using other data sets like purchase habits, but they weren't so granular, and you still lacked a direct way to target people. Facebook created both the datasets and a way to reach targets - because people were too naive (or stupid or greed) to understand the risks of helping the collections of so many personal data points.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: "actually using that to produce a strategy that worked"

        and that, like advertising, knows very well how to take advantage of people's weak sides.

        The main thing advertising has forgotten is that over saturation desensitises.

        Over eager to have the client pay for more, or the client wanting more, they lay it on too thick, too often and the same campaign for too long. People tune it out.

        As I don't watch TV any more, when I do pass an advert on the TV, I find myself caught by it, the 'callouses' I'd grown when viewing regularly have grown thin with lack of 'abrasion'.

        If, however you are feeding a message people want to hear, or welcome, it's a different matter. They will seek it out. Identifying certain cliques and the leavers to manipulate them is hardly new, and doesn't need big data - people have been doing it for centuries to whip up mobs for their own advancement.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "advertising has forgotten is that over saturation desensitises."

          What makes you believe it has forgotten it? TV commercials are a "fire and forget" weapon, you fire a barrage of ads and hope some would stick to the target audience, especially with generic channels. With some more specialized channels you can target ads better, but you'll also know you'll reach a smaller audience.

          There's also the issue of cost - creating a TV ad can be very expensive - you may have not the luxury of making several different ones for the same product. That's different with interned ads and propaganda. You can be far more subtle, and it can be cheaper.

          "Identifying certain cliques and the leavers to manipulate them is hardly new"

          No, but you can identify and manipulate far smaller groups today. Society is far more fragmented than it was a century ago - you no longer have the mass of blue collars, mine workers or farmers to "whip up" - and those smaller groups may have conflicting interests, so you have to target them separately, and show them each their Bogeyman.

        2. Not also known as SC

          Re: "actually using that to produce a strategy that worked"

          The main thing advertising has forgotten is that over saturation desensitises.

          I wish Sky TV / advertisers would realise this. They run a 'sponsored by' message between each ad break and programme and the current one, for a re-branded travel company, is the most annoying thing on TV to the point that I will never use that company just because i am sick of their advert.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "or US citizens are just gullible and easily manipulated."

      Trump got elected. QED.

      1. sprograms

        You could as well point out that. CA voters went overwhelmingly for Hillary. CA has the highest poverty rate of any state, and a majority of its voters are poor, have little education, came out of public schools rated, amazingly, among the worst in the US.

        Q.E.D.

    5. Jonbays

      I think the proof is in. citizens are gullible and easily manipulated and not just in the US.

    6. veti Silver badge

      You have to remember how ridiculously close the election was. The winning margin came to less than 0.1% of voters across three states.

      So yeah, it's possible CA had that big an effect. Just that it wouldn't have meant anything without all the other things also having their effects. Giving all the credit to CA is like paying for a coffee with 1p coins, and saying it was the last one that bought it.

    7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I think CA have been given too much credit or US citizens are just gullible and easily manipulated."

      Most elections tend to be driven by a relatively small number of voters changing allegiance or even making the decision to stay at home or go to vote. CA don't need to have been very effective to have made a difference.

  3. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    Facebook ... first take the plank out of your own eye...

    Matthew 7:3

  4. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Complaint

    So what's Facebook's issue ?

    That CA copied their business model ?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Complaint

      Nah, they don't really care how the data is used so long as they get the price they are asking. The only issue here is that Facebook only got paid for the low value research level licence rather than the far more costly commercial use licence.

    2. AmyInNH

      Re: Complaint

      Facebook's issue is that they require payment for the data, and Cambridge Analytica got it from an intermediate. Facebook's business model is selling access to its users, and their data.

  5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

    Is this Cambridge Analytica a Russian Company? Is it owned by Vlad The Bare Chested Overlord?

    SANCTIONS!!! SANCTIONS!!! SANCTIONS!!! SANCTIONS!!!

    Oh, it is majority owned by a ultra-conservative USA Hedge Fund Tycoon.

    It's all right then. NOTHING TO SEE HERE. MOVE ALONG.

    There are days when I am pretty sure that "Do not be a Hypocrite" was on that 3rd tablet with the 5 extra commandments which Moses broke. This one is one of those.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

      This article is worth reading.

      https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump?CMP=share_btn_tw

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

        The reason why Arthur Dent could not understand the galaxy is because he was a Guardian reader. Reading such nonsense removes you ability to reason.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

          > Reading such nonsense removes you ability to reason.

          It is "your" ability, with an 'r'.

          (Not that the subject line being carried over is a prime example of spelling accuracy either, mind)

        2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

          Reading such nonsense removes you ability to reason.

          Reading neocon nonsense instead of reading Santayana leads to the same results.

          Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

          It was the LIBERAL values which won the cold war. If the East had the choice of Cambridge Analytica 1984 + Treasonous May surveillance state versus Brezhnev + Suslov 1984 and Honeker surveillance state they would have stayed with the old familiar.

          I do remember those time pretty well too - I observed them from a close vantage point on the other side of the wall. Sure, we were young and idealistic then, but that does not change the core motive forces behind what happend.

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

            Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

            It was the LIBERAL values which won the cold war.

            Properly speaking, the cold war was won by Reagan starting so many absurdly expensive weapons programmes (all of which had to be countered) that the Soviet Union was spending around 20% of GDP on military spending, and attempts to increase this led to a complete economic meltdown. So economics really won the cold war/technological war, and not political values.

            1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

              Re: Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

              Properly speaking, the cold war was won by Reagan starting so many absurdly expensive weapons programmes(*)

              You are mistaking the DEFEAT of the Soviet Union with the WIN when it fell. These two events while coinciding in time were not exactly the same.

              When the USSR fell over, its economic state was on par with Germany post-WW1. As a result we could have seen an unbridled dictatorship emerge there and then and it came very very close twice:

              Once in 1991 and 1993. If you think Putin is bad you really need to read up on Yanaev, Rutskoi and Lebedev.

              However, on the overall the LIBERAL values won. Today's Russia after all of our work to push it as far to the right as possible as a blowback is a result of that. It is significantly more liberal than a Yanayev USSR v2.0 or Rutskoi or Lebedev Russian empire v2 would have been.

              (*)You are describing the symptom, not the root cause. The root cause was Suslov or someone at his level in Politburo (if memory serves me right) noticing circa 1975 that the central banks around the Warsaw pact are borrowing based on actual economical metrics and ignoring the sanctity of the 5 year economic plans. From there on the banks were mandated to borrow based on the planned economic metrics in the plans (mostly sucked out of a finger). The results of this could be seen across the Warsaw pact. Russian 20% GDP weapon spend, Bulgaria paving the pedestrianized areas of all regional centers with marble and building a "culture palace" monstrousity in each, etc. The symptoms differed, but the root cause was the same - borrowing based on predicted (aka planned) economic metrics not actual. I am not going to make any comparisons between that and certain western countries today by the way

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

                "You are mistaking the DEFEAT of the Soviet Union with the WIN when it fell. These two events while coinciding in time were not exactly the same."

                There's also the issue that the cold war itself was arguably ended in the early 1960s when Krushev refused to let let soviet scientists built a world-ending nuclear bomb out of a cargo ship that would cruise up and down the US eastern seaboard - the tsar bomba would have been tiny by comparison.

                1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

                  Re: Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

                  There's also the issue that the cold war itself was arguably ended in the early 1960s

                  Several programs like that were instigated and later cancelled during disarmament periods. The latest Russian underwater nuke drone has the distinct smell of one of these old programs being hooked up to the electrodes and given a jolt.

                  I would not qualify that end as a "WIN". A "WIN" which ends up replacing King Herod with someone to the right of Atilla the Hun is not a real win. Nobody wins - the people under said Herod/Atilla/Chengiz Khan/Pol Pot/Kim Chen Ir/Stalin only suffer more as a result. We waste more resource to counter the increased threat. Most importantly, the threat of the last war for us as a species only increases.

                  What happened after the fall of the wall was a WIN. The people on the other side all opted for a LIBERAL society. They were definitely not throwing themselves on top of BMPs (as in Romania in 1989 or Russia in 1991) for a different version of 1984 retold by Bannon and Mogg and sprinkled by some Treasonous May Stasi re-enactment and Securitate style Dubia interrogations.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

              "So economics really won the cold war/technological war, and not political values."

              Something which is so well known that the USA has been frantically attempting to hide its _real_ military GDP spend for quite some time (officially it's 5%, practically it's a lot higher than that) in order to avoid spooking markets.

              Occasionally things leak, like the US army managing to misplace $6 trillion in one year on a $800 million annual budget.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Is this Cambirdge Analyitca a Russian Company?

            > I observed them from a close vantage point on the other side of the wall.

            The other side of the wall respect to whom?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weaponized?

    And copying a file is PIRACY!

  7. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    mug punter: this is a subject access request tell me everything

    ca: why, we have nothing on you mr punter, hth hand

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Curious

    He set up a similar firm called Eunoia Technologies to do more ethical marketing, taking a copy of the data with him,

    If the article is correct and I understand it, Wylie comes out of this smelling strongly of excrement. Seems he was happy to work for CA for some years including setting up the deal with Mercer, leaves in 2014 in a huff*, taking data with him that he's alleging even CA didn't have by rights, claims to know that CA used that data two years after he left for other purposes, and then the stylistically challenged tit describes himself as an "ethical marketer". There's an oxymoron if ever there were one. Mind you, at least he's going the full monty, and dressing as a comedy hipster twat.

    * People are often reported as leaving in a huff. From the typical circumstances, I suspect a huff to be a small, eco-friendly pedal cart. Something like a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe, but made from dried pressed soya curd and sustainably sourced bamboo.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: Curious

      Looks like an SJW nu-male to me, to put it politely. And he wouldn't look like one if he wasn't one. Oh the irony of a techno-hipster far-left activist screeching about the abuse of social media to advance a political agenda.

      Not that it isn't a huge problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        techno-hipster far-left activist

        Actually he came across as one of those mincing far-right types.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: techno-hipster far-left activist

          > Actually he came across as one of those mincing far-right types.

          You may be right. The more I learn, the company looks like a bizarre nexus of high-tech, alt-right, LGBT, and god only knows what else. They say politics makes strange bedfellows. And now they can expect to be thrown under the bus by all those constituencies if they haven't already. (Conservatives and alt-righters have been distrustful of Bannon as long as he's been in the limelight, partly because of his involvement in CA and such like, and partly because of his je-ne-sais-pas.)

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Curious

      "* People are often reported as leaving in a huff. From the typical circumstances, I suspect a huff to be a small, eco-friendly pedal cart. Something like a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe, but made from dried pressed soya curd and sustainably sourced bamboo."

      I thought it had something to do with a self-driving, talking black Trans Am. Or am I getting confused between Huff and Hoff?

      1. Diogenes

        Re: Curious

        I thought a huff was a bolt together house

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: Curious

          Huff/Hoff

          Follow the Bear! No, not the Russians (for now), but George

          https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/nov/21/george-the-bear-hofmeister-lager-facebook-twitter-craft-ale

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Joke

        Re: Curious

        > I thought it had something to do with a self-driving, talking black Trans Am. Or am I getting confused between Huff and Hoff?

        If you said that on Facebook today, would its algorithms would ban you for racist/transphobic hate speech?

    3. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Curious

      * People are often reported as leaving in a huff.

      And if that's too soon, they leave in a minute and a huff.*

      * Three Stooges by way of Wyrd Sisters

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Curious

        People are often reported as leaving in a huff.

        I always thought it was Groucho Marx as Rufus T Firefly in Duck Soup

        Firefly (to Mrs Teasdale): Well, that covers a lot of ground. Say, you cover a lot of ground yourself. You'd better beat it; I hear they're gonna tear you down and put up an office building where you're standing. You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Curious

      Fellow AC, I personally agree with most of what you say and you certainly raise some interesting questions. Also, I chuckled at your footnote.

      However, I have reported your post for the gratuitous insults and abusive language towards a named person. Those are completely unnecessary in order to put your point across, they are disrespectful and they are proffered from behind a veil of anonymity that you are abusing.

      We have the privilege of non publicly attributable posting here at El Reg to express compromising or uncomfortable truths without immediate fear of retribution, not to insult other people however much you may disagree with them.

    5. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Curious

      * People are often reported as leaving in a huff.

      A hidden Marxist. Groucho made the definitive comments on leaving in a huff.

      [edit] Oh, right, someone already posted the quote. Ignore me.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is a fudge all till oxford Analytica get exposed for their elect trump cause brexit shenanigans.

    I'm loving the way those that be in power try to make excuses with the internet.

    If politicians weren't such nobs people wouldn't vote against them.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Took them long enough

    All the things that CA did were exposed months ago on a TV Documentary made with the help of CA themselves.

    I can't remember if it was on the BBC of Channel 4 but their methods (or at least some of them) were out there for all to see.

    As a confirmed 'DO NOT USE... EVER' when it comes to Social Media this story just made me even more sure that I was right to eschew FB and all the rest years ago. Social Media has transformed itself into AINT-Social Media right before our eyes and most of us didn't even notice it happening.

    Don't put your life out there for all to see. If you do and these (CA that is) shysters get hold it and use it against you, don't complain. You let the genie out of the bottle not them.

    CA needs to be closed down as will all the other gazillion heads of the Anyaltica Hydra when they ineviably spring up to replace them (watch out for the same directors people!)

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Took them long enough

      Hail Hydra!

      .... oh, sorry, got carried away there....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meh - CA is an advertising agency

    Don’t see how this is different to any other advertiser. Why is what CA doing special?

    Also, why can the Russian Ad agencies throw an election, but not the US ones? How much advertising money was wasted on US Ad agencies?

    In any case people are always manipulated. That’s why elReg has adverts and articles on stuff. And why forums discuss technology and games (very good advertising).

    How do you know I’m not paid to write this?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Meh - CA is an advertising agency

      Also, why can the Russian Ad agencies throw an election, but not the US ones?

      Because they are the all-powerful enemy that eats children, cooks using neural toxic gas and sets what the election should be in their free time.

      BOLLOCKS... The Hypocritical nature of the debate has no limits and we have become THEM. Of old. Of the Suslov and Brezhnev times. We are now no different.

      People forget what really screwed the Eastern Block and delivered the fall of the wall. Sure, the superweapon race, the war in Afghanistan, the ridiculous economic mismanagement, etc had their role. They, however were not the key winners. The key winners were the truth versus fake news and propaganda.

      When Chernobyl blew up, it was only the western media which delivered some resemblance of truth. The media in the Eastern block lied like mad for weeks. That was not one off - it was a daily thing. As a result people stopped believing anything the rulers told them. It was the total mistrust of everyone (regardless of their political views) which made the Eastern Block fold so easily. The west HAD the high moral ground. The Soviets were perceived as a bunch of lousy liars. We have forgotten that. We have forgotten that there is no more powerful weapon, but the truth.

      Instead of that we now cook fake news to our heart's content and paint the opponent in "they eat children" colors. Our signature today is Boris the Bollocker.

      I bet that they have to call an exorcist to the Kremlin wall internment and Novodevichie semetery on a regular basis because the like of Suslov and Brezhnev are giggling in their graves so loudly that you can hear them from a mile away.

      They giggle at the way we bend and hide truth. They giggle at the way we erode the rights which we claimed as fundamental (and which was one of the main arguments which won the Cold War). While they giggle, Comrade Eric Honeker gravestone keeps on cracking all over from him having a boner while observing how Treasonous May is implementing his dream surveillance state (he never had a sense of humor so expecting him to just giggle is a tall order)

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: Meh - CA is an advertising agency

        @Voland's Right Hand

        We have forgotten that. We have forgotten that there is no more powerful weapon, but the truth.

        As a result people stopped believing anything the rulers told them. It was the total mistrust of everyone (regardless of their political views) which made the Eastern Block fold so easily.

        Excellent points.

        I wish I could upvote you more..

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Meh - CA is an advertising agency

        "The Soviets were perceived as a bunch of lousy liars"

        В «Правде» нет известий, и в «Известиях» нет правды!

        It's a kind of ancestor of "Faux News".

        But there's something about Chyernobyl that I'd like to mention.

        After the cover up came a new transparency. The result was that reactor operators from around the world shared information, the Chyernobyl disaster was thoroughly analysed and as a result a number of improvements were designed into other, non-Soviet reactors. The Japanese, however, thought they knew better and pursued their own path. Which led to Fukushima due to elementary ignoring of possible problems.

        What would be the real disaster is if the manipulators create such a climate of distrust that international co-operation stops. Trump is bad, Johnson is almost as bad, but Gove's "we've had enough of experts" is one of the most evil remarks of the 21st century so far.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Meh - CA is an advertising agency

          What would be the real disaster is if the manipulators create such a climate of distrust that international co-operation stops.

          I am pretty sure we are no longer at the stage of "would". We are at the stage were it IS the case.

          For example - what was Boris and May fucking problem to give the Russians a sample from Salisbury. We can still drive the same line if we wish, but we are not perceived as someone who has insufficient evidence or is trying to conceal or doctor evidence to fit a specific agenda.

          In fact, giving it to the Russians put them into a lose-lose situation: An answer of "no, it is not ours, our signature is different" would have been an immediate: "What signature, you claimed you destroyed all of it". The biggest mistake they made was asking for it.

          As I have said before - there is no bigger and scarier weapon than the truth. People should learn to use it. Yeah, I know, it is a difficult thing for pathological liars like Boris or GoveNoccio.

  12. Voidstorm

    Interesting note...

    The Whistleblower has had his farcebook account suspended, if his tweet on the matter can be believed.

    I smell a Wumpus somewhere...

  13. Jove Bronze badge

    Next ...

    Civil law claims against individuals for not locking-down their accounts and thus allowing the "theft" of a third-party's data.

  14. SVV Silver badge

    Boo Hoo!

    I spent massive amounts of time voluntarily gving masses of data about myself to a commercial company, and they let other people access that data as it was now theirs according to their terms and conditions of use, and now I don't like what someone did with my data that I gave them, and I feel let down because I'd been told that it was the cool thing to do and I'd be left out if I didn't do it because everybody else was doing it!

    What did you think they were, some sort of philanthropic idealistic charity? Could you not forsee any potential downsides to publishing everything about yourself online? Apparently the answer to such questions for most people is "yes". A fool and his money are easily parted. Now we know that a fool and his information are even more easily parted. And the fool can be easily be manipulated as a result.

    1. hnwombat

      Re: Boo Hoo! @SVV

      Let's see where this logic gets us...

      People who bought Pintos should have known that they had flaws in the gas tank protection. Therefore, when getting into an rear-end accident, the resulting fireball was entirely their fault, and Ford had no blame.

      Sorry, I don't buy it.

      Unethical data creation / protection / use is still unethical, even if the provider of the initial data is an idiot. It can be argued that the company is not 100% to blame, but not that it is 0% to blame.

      Plus, this ignores those of us who *were* aware of possible consequences, created accounts because we basically *had* to (I am a university professor; my students don't communicate via email, they do it via fb), gave it as little information as possible, and *still* had our data weaponized.

      We really need to stop the neo-liberal "companies don't do anything unethical, since you knowingly agreed to the terms of service and information flow is symmetric, instantaneous, and cost-free, and consumers are entirely rational" mindset in its tracks. The very existence of advertising companies denies the premises.

      1. David Shone

        Re: Boo Hoo! @SVV

        @hnwombat

        In any civilised society naive or uninformed people do indeed have to be protected so far as is reasonably possible (and from what I've read, I consider fb to be culpable in part here). But education is part of that protection; if your students only communicate via fb then perhaps they should be expected to learn to use email or whatever system your institution defines as a standard.

        If you were aware of possible issues with fb, then due diligence would surely lead you to avoid it and to specify some other medium. Presumably you have a standard language that is mandatory for verbal and written communication with students, and I don't see why there's a problem in specifying other standards for communications, instead of pandering to the latest fad.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Boo Hoo! @SVV

        @hnwombat

        "Sorry, I don't buy it."

        Well, at least you aoplogised.

  15. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    "Facebook is peeved"

    Because somebody else monetized it's data, and it wasn't Facebook !

  16. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Yes?

    Could you not forsee any potential downsides to publishing everything about yourself online?

    Apparently the answer to such questions for most people is "yes".

    Reading that through, I feel the answer should be 'no'.

    Q: "Could you not foresee"

    A: "No (I couldn't)."

    You are probably correct. This is just my impression.

    1. SVV Silver badge

      Re: Yes?

      Apologies for the slightly clumsy formulation of my logic there. The confusion arises because one is a simple statement and the other offers a reason why :

      My example : Yes. I could not forsee it (I agree THAT I could not)

      You : No, I couldn't forsee it (I disagree BECAUSE I could not)

      Something like that anyway, it could have been better put, that's for sure!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too late!

    Facebook is now one of the TBTF (too big to fail) so nothing will happen. We should all get over it!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Minor correction

    Mr Wylie’s extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and so far we only have his word.

    No, extraordinary claims require evidence which supports them. This evidence can be quite mundane or prosaic, for example a diary, a receipt &c.

    This discussion about "extraordinary evidence" is a pet peeve - it is a way of dismissing evidence which one may not like. I prefer evidence which supports claims being the requirement, remaining neutral about the extraordinariness of it.

    But yes, point taken. At the moment we only have Mr Wylie's assertions, which is hardly evidence.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice to see a few Dominos Falling - BUT-

    Look how easy it is to comply with misuse of Facebook data...

    How come there's ZERO verification, followup or fallout. Hello? ....

    "He claims to have deleted the data before being formally asked to do so by Facebook in 2016, a year after the misuse was discovered by the social media firm. All he had to do was fill in a form saying he had deleted and Facebook were satisfied with that."

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Facebook Crimes' - Zuk's dirty laundry out in the open

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-17/no-breach-but-not-secure-cambridge-misuse-shows-facebook-flaws

    =

    Facebook on Defensive as Cambridge Case Exposes Data Flaw - Bloomberg - Cambridge Analytica, the data-analysis firm that helped U.S. President Donald Trump win the 2016 election, violated rules when it obtained information from some 50 million Facebook profiles, the social-media company acknowledged late Friday.

    But the data came from someone who didn’t hack the system: a professor who originally told Facebook he wanted it for academic purposes. - He set up a personality quiz using tools that let people log in with their Facebook accounts, then asked them to sign over access to their friend lists and likes before using the app.

    The 270,000 users of that app and their friend networks opened up private data on 50 million people, according to the New York Times. All of that was allowed under Facebook’s rules, until the professor handed the information off to a third party.

    Facebook said it found out about Cambridge Analytica’s access in 2015, after which it had the firm certify that it deleted the data. On Friday, Facebook said it now knows Cambridge actually kept it -- an infraction that got Cambridge suspended from the social network.

    Once that was announced, executives quickly moved on to defending Facebook’s security. Facebook says it has no way of knowing how or whether the data was used for targeting in the Trump campaign. - Facebook’s advertising business depends on users sharing their most personal data via its social network.

    But the company’s “not a breach” argument isn’t likely to make users feel any safer or more comfortable doing so -- especially given that it’s already under fire for missing that Russian actors were purchasing U.S. election ads on the site to sway voter opinions, as well as running fake accounts disguised as real Americans.

    The company has also been fending off accusations that it’s too slow to notice or react to harmful content. - The latest incident has raised new questions about what technical guardrails Facebook has in place to prevent authorized users from sharing sensitive information, and how much visibility the company has into how outsiders use the data. -

    Lawmakers in the U.S. and U.K. aren’t convinced Facebook has its users’ best interests in mind. Over the weekend the company faced critiques from members of the Senate intelligence committee, and in London, the head of a parliamentary committee called on CEO Mark Zuckerberg to have a senior executive answer those questions.

    UK: “We have repeatedly asked Facebook about how companies acquire and hold on to user data from their site, and in particular whether data had been taken from people without their consent,” ... “Their answers have consistently understated this risk, and have also been misleading to the committee.”

  21. aks Bronze badge

    Surely this is just the current version of 'focus groups'.

    That nice Mr Blair swore by them.

  22. SiFly

    sudo dd if=/dev/random of=/dev/sda

  23. Twanky

    270,000 people downloaded the app... 50 million profiles leaked...

    184 other people's profiles per self-selected volunteer - excluding overlaps? Genuine question: would that be a usual number of 'friends'?

  24. RobertLongshaft

    See what happens when the "Russia collusion" narrative has completely failed?

    Now we need to blame Trump for something again there is literally no evidence of but for one disgruntled former employee who has taken nearly 3 years from the incident itself to go public.

    When you read that the "Fake News" New York Times was involved can you really take any of this seriously?

    FAKE NEWS ALERT, FAKE NEWS ALERT, FAKE NEWS ALERT, FAKE NEWS ALERT

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interestingly

    I was going to post but realised censorship at this site ensures that only acceptable information gets through regardless of how factual it is or how easy it is to confirm those facts. That ensures only the illusion of an open discussion, no real discussion is possible when real people with real and long time accounts have their posts pre-moderated.

    But on an unrelated note I would remind people that the USA and it's government has a long history of working closely with it's large industries and gave us the term Banana Republic.

    Maybe now it has given us the term Digitally Determined Democracy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interestingly

      " censorship at this site"

      Really? It doesnt sem like the Reg's m.o. and Its hard to take the word of a (probably tin foil hat wearing) fawkes mask wearing AC

  26. MrAnonCoward43

    Completely agree with this, wasn't Obama's campaign lauded for it's digital genius? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/magazine/the-obama-campaigns-digital-masterminds-cash-in.html - Remember those Digital Masterminds!

    If Trump employs the same tactics it's somehow entirely undermining the American democratic regime. Facebook should have been hammered during the previous regime for their privacy gobbling up, who knows what they're doing with Whatsapp. Good work the EU with GDPR, you may not be perfect but at least you're not spineless.

    Trump is odious but first we were told the Russians were completely to blame, now it's like Cambridge Analytica can sway the whole election single handedly - it's farcical again. Shame more news outlets and journalists aren't calling this out.

    1. MrAnonCoward43

      This was supposed to be a reply to "Voland's right hand - Re: Meh - CA is an advertising agency" - clearly I failed embarrassingly after I logged in to reply in the right place..

  27. ForthIsNotDead
    Thumb Up

    Massive irony overload...

    I love how The Reg just put it out there with no additional comment, because, well, no additional comment is necessary (emphasis added by me):

    He set up a similar firm called Eunoia Technologies to do more ethical marketing, taking a copy of the data with him...

    Wow!

  28. SeanC4S

    Computational propaganda is certainly not a thing that a species programmed for antiquity could be expected to cope with.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And yet again, the big hole in privacy laws is demonstrated

    Let me first tackle this one: Facebook is peeved that the data was collected under an academic license and then sold commercially. That is accurately phrased: FB isn't really mad that the data was collected, it is mad it didn't make any money on it.

    The problem with current privacy laws is that they only give users the right and ability to choose when dealt with directly. However, FB gets your data WITHOUT your permission by slurping them via your friends. I don't use FB, but I am 100% certain they have my personal details because WhatsApp slurps other people's phonebooks (and that's now black and white visible in a recent court case), and I have zero recourse against the bastards for getting data they collect on me erased.

    IMHO, social media is anything but.

  30. GnuTzu Bronze badge

    What They Wanna Hear

    Telling people what they want to hear--to get them to do things the don't understand.

    This is what it's come to. Breaking up the population into little groups and whispering different messages into their ears. Then, no one knows why that other group is so angry at them--because they don't know what's being said about them. And, you know these messages are now so distorted that the really do constitute lies.

    We have finally reached the point in which cultural perception is completely disconnected from reality.

    If you're being told something that is political and it isn't broadcast to everyone, it is surely a lie.

    And, when spraying the cockroaches loses it's effectiveness, they spray all the more.

  31. Aodhhan Bronze badge

    More of the same

    So apps are mining Facebook... if you didn't figure out this was happening, then you really have no business using a computer. If you input anything which is then stored in the cloud, you better understand, somebody somewhere is going to leak, mine or hack your information.

    When it comes to the majority of data points... these are already being gathered in by credit agencies, credit card companies, mortgage companies and data services such as INFOGROUP.

    They trade this information and sell it out. Make/model cars you've purchased, where you purchase/shop, what brand/model of washer/dryer you purchase, if you voted, mail ads you respond to, type of deodorant you use, etc. You use a credit card, look how detailed the information on your receipt is. Credit card and retail outlets just sell out everything you do.

    Even local governments sell out information, such as whether or not you showed up to vote and what dates you voted... i.e. do you show up to vote for more than just national elections? How often has the cops been called to your house? What upgrades you've done to your property, etc.

    Until we can vote in people who will not sell out to the corporate data miners and sellers, and will clamp down on the amount of data which can be collected, stored and sold... this will remain a problem everyone should be aware of.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    sold commercially

    "Facebook is peeved that the data was collected under an academic license and then sold commercially"

    - presumably because they've missed out on a massive royalties fee for the data usage?

  33. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Happy

    Snot Rap

    It's a plot rap

    reminded me of Sid Snot & Cupid Stunt performing Snot Rap

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULzVLU9caVw

    With Thanks to Mr Everett. Every much missed. Coming up to 23 years since he passed away.

  34. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Er....... C4 NEws?

    It was Carole Cadwalladr of the Grauniad whongo the scoop. C4N have their own scoop in about ten minutes time, having apparently carried out a traditional fake client sting on CA with secret filming, but that's a separate investigation AFAIK

    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Er....... C4 NEws?

      I found her two articles from October. Hardly bombshells. More like run-of-the-mill web-of-association conspiracy-theory speculation. Commenters have alluded to bombshells from a few months ago but I can't find them.

      The latest from Channel 4, now that's a bombshell. See you on the new thread....

  35. Degenerate Scumbag

    Storm in a teacup.

    So let me get this straight:

    -Data was collected from people who opted in.

    -More data was collected from those of their friends who chose to leave their profiles open to the public.

    -Trump and Brexit campaigns used the services of this company, so now people with anti-Trump, anti-Brexit agendas are trying to claim it as a sophisticated psy-op that tricked people in voting the wrong way.

    -Throw a Russia connection in, just because everything is Russia's fault these days.

    Sorry, not buying it. They didn't have to change people's minds. Both the Trump and Brexit campaigns primarily succeeded because they tapped in to discontent that had long been building among the electorate.

    The data that they got from this would only have been useful for researching public opinion, which is a legitimate thing to do. If people don't want their data used in this way, they shouldn't publish it to the world on a public website, which is what an open Facebook profile is.

    This is an attempt to manufacture a scandal, and it smacks of desperation. It's about time the Globalist lefties accepted that the public are not on board with their agenda.

  36. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Pre-internet laws

    we’re largely still operating under laws written pre-internet.

    Gritting teeth and pretending that the internet is the web, and that it didn't really "exist" until BT were selling access to consumers,.. no, that statement's still not really true. The original Computer Misuse Act does date from 1990 but was amended in 1994,1998, 2006 and 2015. The current Data Protection Act dates from 1998 and it's successor is before Parliament right now.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Pre-internet laws

      Excellent pedantry sir!

  37. rbf

    FB Screwed up Big Time

    Academic Research is all well and good, BUT any researcher with the slightest bit of integrity would have anonymised the data so that no trace back to individuals would be possible. In addition street addresses should have been converted to census tracts.

    FB was sleeping at the switch as fifty million horses sauntered out of the barn.

    Сильная Россия!

  38. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    "Cambridge Analytica determined what types of emotional and visual messages would sway their views and then spammed their social media fields with professionally produced, carefully crafted misinformation."

    Very clever of them , especially the brainwashing content design bit - but how did they do the easy bit: "spam their social media fields" ?

    So they've got the names of 50 million facebook users .... what did they do? a send to all? its not nhs.net!

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