back to article Facebook can’t count, says Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica has disputed Facebook’s claim that it had access to 87 million records from The Social Network™. “Today Facebook reported that information for up to 87 million people may have been improperly obtained by research company GSR,” the company said in a statement. “Cambridge Analytica licensed data for no more …

  1. Franco Silver badge

    Children in Scotland learn this excuse at a very young age. "A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away"

    Neither company thinks they are at fault, truth is as usual likely to be somewhere in the middle.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      In this case the truth is likely to be more than either case as both of them are doing a damage limitation exercise. An educated guess would be up to 90% of the electorate using Facebook which translates to > 80% of electorate in total. If they had less, that means that the slurp bot developers would need to be sacked.

      So for USA you are looking at >200M and for UK Leave referendum you are looking at >30M.

      ZuckerBorg confession that 2Bn out of its 2.2Bn users have had their profiles swiped by bot at least once is a good starting point here. If it was swiped by bot, that means it entered the pool of data to be sold and reused. If we apply that ratio to the user numbers and correct for users outside voting age we will reach more or less the same result.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        "An educated guess would be up to 90% of the electorate using Facebook"

        I thought they only had the suckers that installed their app:

        This_app_makes_your_face_look_funny.exe or whatever.

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Terminator

          Some of the bots were granted permission by the "suckers" to have full access to their account which enabled the bots to go through their friends' profiles too.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          "I thought they only had the suckers that installed their app"

          And all the suckers who were friends with the suckers that installed their app.

          But CA is not the only place this data has leaked. There are innumerable others.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      "Neither company thinks they are at fault, truth is as usual likely to be somewhere in the middle."

      And that "middle" is that BOTH companies are at fault. And let's not forget the researcher, too.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eh?

    That's not what CA were saying in the original Channel 4 series 'The Secrets of Silicon Valley' (Part 2 , towards the end).

    Sorry, I don't believe a word that Zuck or CA say these days.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Eh?

      "Sorry, I don't believe a word that Zuck or CA say these days."

      These days?

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Eh?

        I think you can believe them on some issues

        "People just submitted it. I don't know why. They 'trust me'. Dumb fucks." - Mark Zuckerberg

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Eh?

        Good point. Although in fairness, I hadn't heard of CA until this fiasco, so I had no opinion of them at all.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eh?

      If only sales pitches could be made more accurate - "yes, Mr X we'll happily take £N million from you and return we'll apply all our data analysis expertise to your problem, but I should warn you, its not goinf to help you very much as in reality its all a bit rubbish"

    3. SVV Silver badge

      Re: Eh?

      "The statement also says: “We did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election.” Which rather pours cold water on the “Cambridge Analytica is wot won it for Trump” theory behind much of the interest in the company."

      Looks like that cold water you poured on it just turned into a cloud of steam,,,,,,,

      C'mon, we expect better reporting on this story here (and have been getting plenty of it too, just to be clear). Considering who set this company up, and what was exposed in the programme, we should not be believing statements like this, let alone writing "analysis" that starts from assuming their thuthfulness.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Eh?

        The statement also says: “We did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election.”

        When a company like this says something like that, you have to look at exactly what they said. They did not use any GSR data in the US election, fine. However:

        1) They did work in the 2016 election

        2) Their work involves mining data to provide targeted micro ads

        3) They used another set of data

        Perhaps the pertinent questions now will be: what data DID you use in the 2016 US election, where did it come from, are you still using it. People are acting like the GSR quiz was the only profile harvesting tool in operation.

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: Eh?

          "Perhaps the pertinent questions now will be: what data DID you use in the 2016 US election, where did it come from, are you still using it. "

          Also, which elections did you use it? According to their CEO, they were involved in 44 US election races in 2014. That would be the year the data in question was collected. Even if we believe everything they say, the US presidential election is far from the only one; they claim to have been involved in a great many others, as well as having openly boasted about manipulating elections in other countries. That one specific data set can't be tied to one specific election doesn't really seem particularly important.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eh?

      Reminds me of the old joke about politicians telling you conflicting "facts". How do you know which one is lying:

      Look for the one that's moving their lips...

    5. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Eh?

      Sorry, I don't believe a word that Zuck or CA say these days.

      How to tell that they are lying:

      1) Their lips are moving.

      2) They're typing something on their computer.

      3) Blame is shifted to someone else

      Any or all of the above apply.

  3. Ole Juul

    Numbers

    We keep hearing these numbers in the news as if they have a direct relation to some particular result. If Cambridge Analytica had 30 million records it does not automatically mean that so many millions of people had their minds changed about who to vote for. Yes, they like to brag, but they have no proof. It seems that the significance of the numbers varies according to who is quoting them and at what time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Numbers

      'Twas ever thus. "How to Lie With Statistics."

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Numbers

      "If Cambridge Analytica had 30 million records it does not automatically mean that so many millions of people had their minds changed about who to vote for."

      Votes are determined on margins. Changing the minds of a marginal number of people can have a significant effect.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Changing minds not required

        The decision that CA needed to influence was "Could I be bothered to go out and vote today".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Changing minds not required

          Sounds just like what I used to do as a student canvasser back in the 80s knocking on halls of residence doors .... at the time various people were confused as to why after asking who they intended to vote for I didn't try to persuade them to change their allegiance - I explained the main task was identifying your party's supporters and then making sure they got out to vote on the day. (Also, I had a selection of leaflets to distribute over the campaign - not enough to put one of each by each door so I selected which leaflet was more likely to be relevant to "idealistic" first year and which to "job hunting" final students and distributed tehm accordingly ...so I suppose I was guilty of evil targetting messaging as well!)

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Numbers

      "If Cambridge Analytica had 30 million records it does not automatically mean that so many millions of people had their minds changed about who to vote for. Yes, they like to brag, but they have no proof."

      Intent can be criminal in itself. You can be guilty of attempted murder even if your effort had essentially no chance of success. If a company brags about their ability to manipulate elections by questionable means, they don't actually have to be successful in order for people to get upset about it.

    4. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Numbers

      it does not automatically mean that so many millions of people had their minds changed about who to vote for. Yes, they like to brag, but they have no proof.

      I'd love to know those figures. I bet the number is neglible.

    5. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Numbers

      To get the true figures, take what Facebook says and take what Cambridge Analytica says, then add them together.

    6. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Numbers

      No, they probably didn't persuade that many Clinton supporters to vote Trump, however:

      The election was pretty close, and they didn't need to persuade that many people

      They might have persuaded Trump supporters to get out and vote rather than stay at home

      They might have persuaded Clinton supporters to stay at home, on the basis that she was going to win by a landslide anyway; because who on earth would be mad enough to vote for that orange clown.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Numbers

        "The election was pretty close, and they didn't need to persuade that many people"

        And, considering that Trump lost the popular vote, they failed.

        1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: Numbers

          "And, considering that Trump lost the popular vote, they failed."

          Not at all. The concentrated their efforts where 1) it would work, and 2) it would matter.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Numbers

            What I meant was that they failed to sway enough people in order for Trump to win the popular vote.

    7. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Numbers

      "If Cambridge Analytica had 30 million records it does not automatically mean that so many millions of people had their minds changed about who to vote for."

      Of course, but that's irrelevant.

  4. Winkypop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Oh, "no more than 30 million"

    That's fine then.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'leaves the world wondering who to believe'

    Does it matter? Zuk admitted that its probable data from 2 Billion profiles leaked through the Facebook search box! All because Zuk was too busy giving head to advertisers, investors & data brokers. That's more worrying!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'leaves the world wondering who to believe'

      Facebook leaked PM's too....

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: 'leaves the world wondering who to believe'

      That's this week. The question is "how many more CA's are out there and what do they have?". I suspect that we're just seeing the surface here and not the true depth of this.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: 'leaves the world wondering who to believe'

        I agree. Not all will be crazy mofos that enjoy meddling in third world countries though.

  6. ST Silver badge
    Devil

    in a deranged way it's kinda funny

    watching two pathological liars (CA and Facebook) accusing each other of lying.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, reading

    between the lines, this equates to:

    "We managed to bin 57 million records before the warrant was executed".

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: So, reading

      "There is a piece of paper out there somewhere with '30 million' written on it and we are not sure all the copies have been shredded."

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So CA gave Facebook a certificate to self-certify it deleted their data.

    Can you ask for a copy or to see it? I just want to see which template in word they used.

  9. Ian Bush
    Black Helicopters

    Still 30 million too many ...

  10. Noonoot

    Fiction predicted all of this and more

    "....CA and dark arts ....Facebook..... it’s shocked – just shocked - that anyone would ever think to pervert its good intentions."

    Oh come on. No one in FB has obviously read Jeffrey Deaver's Broken Window.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jeffrey Deaver's Broken Window.

      Shhhhh. Don't tell anyone else. That's where their business plan was cribbed/stolen/nicked from.

      FaeceBook has shit on all of us. Time for it to go the way of MySpace.

  11. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Refuted?

    Cambridge Analytica has refuted Facebook’s claim

    No, they have denied it. To refute it would require producing proof that it was wrong.

    1. Ian Bush

      Re: Refuted?

      They probably mean "repudiated", it seems increasingly common to confuse the two

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Refuted?

      Yes, however, their statement effectively admits CA did take and use data from Facebook. Which brings us back to the questions of providence and consent...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Due to the very nature of Social Media, even 30 million can cause a lot of damage.

    Here how it works. Hit the 30 million with targeted ads. Say 10 million take the bait and like or share it with all their friends. Some of those do the same. After a while it becomes a meme on Social Media and untraceable back to the original source.

    To be honest 1 is to many

    1. pig

      OK. I'll bite.

      "Due to the very nature of Social Media, even 30 million can cause a lot of damage.

      Here how it works. Hit the 30 million with targeted ads. Say 10 million take the bait and like or share it with all their friends. Some of those do the same. After a while it becomes a meme on Social Media and untraceable back to the original source.

      To be honest 1 is to many"

      1. How much do you think it would cost to send ads to 30m? Go find out. It is not cheap!

      2. 10m out of 30m to like or share?!?! LOL!

      (For comparison) Direct Marketing has a standard return rate of around 0.01. To even imaging 10m out of 30mil would respond is bonkers.

      I think so many people are overstating the effects of this.

      You have been served ads.

      Are you all as fickle as to be directed by these ads? No. You are not.

      So why do you all think everyone else is?

      Finally, social media is a business with 2 products. The platform and us.

      The platform is the product we buy, and we pay for it by being served ads (targeted via our data).

      We are the product the advertisers buy. They buy it with money that funds the service/company.

      I thought most people understood this? I do.

      I expect my data to be used to target ads because they tell me they will do this.

      A lot of this complaining is like my nan moaning about ads on ITV. . .

      1. strum Silver badge

        >Hit the 30 million with targeted ads. Say 10 million take the bait and like or share it with all their friends.

        It doesn't take nearly that many.

        Hit half a dozen people with the same factoid, and it can become 'true' for them and all their like-minded acquaintances.

        Hit a few thousand of those 'half dozens' and you've got a polling swing.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    CA's role is spreading disinformation. So exactly why should we believe a a word they say?

    1. The Nazz Silver badge

      re spreading disinformation

      "CA's role is spreading disinformation."

      And how is this different from Tony Blair 1997-2007, Gordon Brown 1997-2010, Peter Mandleson 1997+.

      Or indeed Vince Cable at his recent party political conference telling the assembled, and the country via the main news channels, essentially that every single Leave voter was/is racist.

      Jeez, whatever CA did with Facebook data, if they had had as much success in misleading the electorate and gaining their vote as Blair/Brown did then Trump would have won at least 55 states.

  14. iron Silver badge

    "Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

    So total extinction then?

  15. Potemkine! Silver badge

    If they say so then it must be true

    Also pigs fly and IBM cares about its older employees.

  16. Simon Harris Silver badge

    "and didn't use any in the US election"

    As Mandy Rice-Davies almost said, "Well they would say that, wouldn't they?"

  17. alain williams Silver badge

    Does the number matter even approximately ?

    What they are trying to do is to distract the focus from ''they abused personal information'' to ''how many ?''

    This is not too far from how political messages work these days -- sod the facts, produce vague, emotional messages that most listeners will interpret differently as being good for them.

    OK: politicians have always done that, it used to be called 'spin'; but these days it seems more deliberate - we are in a 'post truth' era where people believe things despite clear evidence to the contrary.

  18. TVU

    "Facebook can’t count, says Cambridge Analytica"

    I neither believe nor trust anything that Cambridge Analytica says.

  19. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    No mention of SCL?

    Maybe that particular brand of SCL didn't keep the data, how about the others?

    http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/

  20. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    wait so facebook told CA about that picture of my dinner I put up that time?

    Whats the problem?

    Also does anyone have any suggestions about who's the bestest politician to vote for?

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      Also does anyone have any suggestions about who's the bestest politician to vote for?

      A dead one. It's the only way to be sure they've stopped lying.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The scandal is much bigger, in reality every APP of the Facebook platform slurped data!

    In reality every Facebook APP using the API v1 had access to all of the FB users data, and access to their friends data as well. But the scandal is even bigger. FB apps had permissions on iOS and Android to read the users phone book, SMS, photogallery, and uploaded all data to FB cloud (not visible to the user, but analysed). And Facebook creates shadow profiles of those contacts that have no account yet. Websites with embedded Facebook "share buttons" and Facebook comment sections track web surfers and create & update those shadow profiles as well. So it's not about 85mio accounts, it's about 2 billion accounts multiplied by the number of FB apps using API v1. suckerberg..

  22. Paul 195
    FAIL

    ' “Cambridge Analytica licensed data for no more than 30 million people from GSR, as is clearly stated in our contract with the research company. We did not receive more data than this.”

    The statement also says: “We did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election." '

    Does anyone believe a word CA says after they explained nicely to the Channel 4 reporter on camera the depths to which they would sink to help a client win an election?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Inconsistent

    CA might have convinced one group of half-wits to fork over a boat load of money on the premise that they could actually influence an election. But I'm puzzled at all the commenters on here that seem to believe it also. They are willing to take CA's word on that ONE thing?

  24. JohnFen Silver badge

    Yeah, whatever

    As little credibility as Facebook has (and it's very little), CA has even less. Their disclaimers are meaningless.

    But, I think when you're arguing about how many tens of millions of people were affected, you've already lost sight of the real issue here. It's like arguing "hey, I only hit you 10 times, not 20!".

  25. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    CA has clearly been wronged here. Good thing they speak up about it!

  26. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Why Would Anyone Believe Cambridge Analytica

    Why Would Anyone Believe Cambridge Analytica given what NIX has claimed and data found subsequently in it's possession?

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