Cambridge Analytica on the ballot

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Politicus USA's Jason Easley writes that this fall, many of us will be voting, in effect, for an investigation into Cambridge Analytica:

The man who may be leading the House Russia investigation in a matter of months, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), said that the connections between Russia, Trump, and Cambridge Analytica need to be investigated.

Here is part of the transcript from ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

SCHIFF: We need to find out what we can about the misappropriation of the privacy, the private information of tens of millions of Americans. That misappropriate information used by this digital arm of the Trump campaign to manipulate American voters and, of course, the links between Cambridge Analytica and Julian Assange. We know Nick's (ph) reached out to Assange to try to acquire stolen Clinton emails. The links between this Russian researcher and Cambridge Analytica and the links between Russian Analytica and a Russian oil company Lukoil that wanted information about reaching American voters.

All of that needs to be investigated. And the premature conclusion of this investigation doesn't allow us to do our job.

As Easley remarks:

As the Special Counsel investigation widens and investigates Trump's businesses and potential money laundering, it is crystal clear why House Republicans rushed to shut down their investigation and issue a glowing report clearing the president of any wrongdoing. The pieces are coming together. Trump's data firm worked with Russians and the Trump campaign to target and manipulate voters to get Trump elected.

Axios analyzes the Cambridge Analytica blowback, as "The number of calls for investigations into Trump-linked Cambridge Analytica's illicit gathering of Facebook data grew on Sunday:"

There are concerns over Cambridge Analytica, which did work for the Trump campaign, gathering the data on millions of Facebook users. And there are also worries that the social platform didn't handle the incident properly, prompting lawmakers to raise their voices over the past few days on both sides of the pond.

Slate's Jacob Metcalf and Casey Fiesler explain some of the problems:

In a 2013 paper ["Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior"], psychologist Michal Kosinski and collaborators from University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom warned that "the predictability of individual attributes from digital records of behavior may have considerable negative implications," posing a threat to "well-being, freedom, or even life." This warning followed their striking findings about how accurately the personal attributes of a person (from political leanings to intelligence to sexual orientation) could be inferred from nothing but their Facebook likes.

This trove of reporting shows how Cambridge Analytica allegedly relied on the psychologist Aleksandr Kogan (who also goes by Aleksandr Spectre), a colleague of the original researchers at Cambridge, to gain access to profiles of around 50 million Facebook users.

Back then, "Facebook's API (the portal that allows third parties to make use of Facebook software and data) by default allowed third parties to access not only your own profile with permission, but also the full profiles of all of your friends," and this was exploited by Cambridge Analytica and their commercialized research:

It appears that Kogan deceitfully used his dual roles as a researcher and an entrepreneur to move data between an academic context and a commercial context, although the exact method of it is unclear. The Guardian claims that Kogan "had a licence from Facebook to collect profile data, but it was for research purposes only" and "[Kogan's] permission from Facebook to harvest profiles in large quantities was specifically restricted to academic use." Transferring the data this way would already be a violation of the terms of Facebook's API policies that barred use of the data outside of Facebook for commercial uses, but we are unfamiliar with Facebook offering a "license" or special "permission" for researchers to collect greater amounts of data via the API.

"Ultimately," the piece concludes, "researchers and platforms need each other:"

Platforms have a vast, unprecedented trove of data about human behavior, but they cannot understand it and build the best possible products without external researchers' critical insights. The worst possible result of this scandal is a reduction of access. The best possible result is the development of equitable, open, and transparent access to research data with user consent.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on March 18, 2018 8:01 PM.

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