Cambridge Analytica Là Gì

Facebook's actions và public statements are facing inquiries from several federal agencies regarding the mishandling of millions of users' personal data. (Elyse Samuels, Patrick Martin/The Washington Post)

Late on Friday, Facebook made an unexpected announcement: The data firm Cambridge Analytica, hyped as integral to lớn President Trump’s election, was suspended from the social network for using data collected improperly from Facebook users.

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It is a complicated issue that many people might have missed, given the timing of the announcement. With that in mind, here is an overview of the groups involved, what happened — and what it means.

Cambridge Analytica is a data firm that promises its customers insights inlớn consumer or voter behavior.

On the commercial side, that means tools like “audience segmentation” — breaking out advertising audiences inlớn smaller groups — và then targeting advertisements to lớn those groups on “multiple platforms.”

On the political side, it is much the same thing, with one tweak. While advertisers generally target consumers as groups, political campaigns need lớn target specific people — registered voters receptive sầu khổng lồ a potential message.

“Combining the precision of data analytics with the insights of behavioral psychology và the best of individually addressable advertising công nghệ,” the company’s trang web pledges, “you can run a truly end-to-over chiến dịch.” And that is why Cambridge Analytica was created.

Robert Mercer is a prominent conservative donor whose public protệp tin rose sharply over the past few years. He & his daughter Rebekah invested millions in efforts to reshape conservative politics, funding Citizens United, the anti-mainstream-truyền thông media Media Research Center and Breitbart News.

In 2013, Robert Mercer partnered with a British firm called SCL Group & its elections director Alexander Nix lớn chạy thử SCL’s methodology in Virginia’s governor’s race, as the Thành Phố New York Times reported. Their candidate, Republican Ken Cuccinelli, lost. But the Mercers moved forward with a political data strategy anyway, partnering with Nix lớn create Cambridge Analytica, which would use SCL’s data and methodology for political work.

Facebook shares fell by about 5 percent on March 19 after reports that a firm that worked on President Trump's campaign had inappropriate access khổng lồ user data. (Reuters)

The key part of the Cambridge Analytica sales pitch is that “insights of behavioral psychology” line.

There are lots of data companies that can tell you who’s registered khổng lồ vote, và there are lots of companies that compile consumer data on those same voters. This, in fact, was an instrumental part of Facebook’s sales pitch to political campaigns (bachồng before it quietly buried that pitch in the wake of questions about Russian interference in the năm nhâm thìn election). After the năm trước election, we wrote about how Facebook offered campaigns a place khổng lồ overlap their voter data (who’s registered and basic demographic information) with Facebook’s vast array of data on its users’ behavior. While most firms that collect data on consumer behavior bởi vì so by tracking the bread crumbs we leave around our consumer culture — grocery store rewards cards, magazine subscriptions, etc. — Facebook has the advantage that so many Americans tell the company precisely what they like, by quite literally clicking the “like” button.

Facebook’s database of personal information may be the largest in the world, given that nearly a third of the globe has an tài khoản with the company. If you are a company looking to provide data services, you would justifiably be jealous of the information Facebook possesses. So Facebook (recognizing an opportunity when it sees it) provides a way for software developers to build on top of their platsize, allowing other companies khổng lồ use their data under certain conditions. It used khổng lồ be fairly trivial, in fact, for developers khổng lồ build an application that would then pull a great khuyễn mãi giảm giá of information from the site, including information about your friends’ activity. In May năm trước, the site announced it was tightening that access, beginning the following year.

To apply its “insights of behavioral psychology” lớn national politics, as the Mercers intended, the SCL/Cambridge team needed a lot of information about a lot of Americans. According khổng lồ the Times’s report, a Cambridge employee named Christopher Wylie encountered a researcher at Cambridge University named Aleksandr Kogan. Kogan built an application that leveraged Facebook’s tools lớn pull information from the site và then pitched its use using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a tool that allows developers khổng lồ hire humans (sometimes then referred khổng lồ as “turkers”) to vày simple tasks for small fees.

“The task posted by ‘Global Science Research’ appeared ordinary, at least on the surface. The company offered turkers $1 or $2 lớn complete an online survey. But there were a couple of additional requirements as well. First, Global Science Research was only interested in American turkers. Second, the turkers had to tải về a Facebook phầm mềm before they could collect payment. Global Science Research said the tiện ích would ‘tải về some information about you and your network … basic demographics and likes of categories, places, famous people, etc. from you và your friends.’ ”

Global Science Research was Kogan. Using this method, he gathered information on tens of millions of Americans. (The Times says more than 50 million; other outlets say 30 million.) That information was then used lớn build out SCL/Cambridge Analytica’s profiles.

In building his Facebook application, Kogan had pledged that his data collection was only for retìm kiếm purposes và that it would remain anonymized — not able lớn be linked khổng lồ specific people. When the Guardian reported in late 2015 on the liên kết between Kogan and Cambridge, it prompted Facebook lớn promise lớn investigate the situation. (The Guardian’s story was pegged to Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) presidential chiến dịch using Cambridge Analytica for its voter liên hệ efforts. Cruz was strongly supported by the Mercers, who also created well-funded outside groups khổng lồ promote his candidacy.)

In its statement on Friday announcing the suspensions, Facebook carefully put the blame on Kogan misusing its tools và explained it had demanded in 2015 that Kogan, SCL và Cambridge delete its Facebook data. The suspension was prompted by learning last week — apparently after being contacted by the Times — that Cambridge was still in possession of some of the Facebook data. (The company denies that.)

3. What does Cambridge Analytica’s data actually look like?


It is not clear, but we vì have one hint.

A professor at New York’s New School named David Carroll was studying ad targeting when he realized Cambridge’s liên kết with SCL meant the company might be subject to Britain’s broader data-access laws, allowing hlặng lớn potentially see what data the company had collected on hlặng. In March 2017, he got a response.

It is not clear how Cambridge/SCL developed that protệp tin of Carroll (which he described on Twitter as “accurate”), but one can see how Facebook data might help inkhung those categories.

One can also see how, once the profile was developed, the Facebook data underlying it would become unnecessary. It is as though you sneaked a peek at the secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken and then developed your own recipe based on it. You may not be in possession of the recipe, but that is sort of beside the point.

Trump’s digital team was run by Brad Parscale, who last month was named chiến dịch manager for Trump’s 2020 effort. Trump’s general election chiến dịch was slow to lớn get geared up after the primary, and, by mid-năm 2016, there was a debate over how to invest in digital kinh doanh. Bolstered by Parscale’s advocacy (và Jared Kushner’s championing) the chiến dịch hired Cambridge Analytica, over then-chiến dịch chairman Paul Manafort’s apparent objections. The decision may have sầu been made easier, too, by Cambridge/SCL’s role in the successful Brexit campaign in Britain the same month.

As noted above sầu, the Mercers had been hoping Cruz would be the Republican nominee. Once Trump won the Republican nomination, though, they shifted their focus. (The extent to lớn which the hiring of Cambridge Analytica greased that transition is not clear.) They were reportedly instrumental in the August 2016 overhaul of Trump’s chiến dịch, recommending the hiring of both Stephen K. Bannon (from Breitbart) & Kellyanne Conway, who had been working for one of their pro-Cruz PACs.

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Over the last few months of the campaign, Parscale’s team invested heavily in Facebook advertising, even hosting a Facebook employee at their Texas war room who helped guide their work. The advertising the chiến dịch deployed was informed by Cambridge Analytica’s data.

Bloomberg reported on the data team shortly before the election and how Parscale managed the competing data from Cambridge & the Republican Party.

“Parscale was building his own danh sách of Trump supporters, beyond the RNC’s reach,” Bloomberg’s Joshua Green và Sasha Issenberg wrote. “Cambridge Analytica’s statistical models isolated likely supporters whom Parscale bombarded with ads on Facebook, while the chiến dịch bought up gmail lists from the likes of Gingrich & Tea Party groups to lớn prospect for others.”

One footnote: Campaign adviser Michael Flynn also contracted with SCL shortly before the end of the chiến dịch, though he apparently never did any work for the company.

Well, this is a broader question: Does Cambridge help win elections? Or, put another way: How much of Cambridge’s rhetoric about psychographics is just hype?

In most cases, it is very hard khổng lồ identify one particular factor that made the difference in a political campaign. Despite the ubiquity of politicking, campaigns do not happen that often và, when they bởi vì, there are thousands of factors that make each conchạy thử quality. So analyzing the effects of chiến dịch tactics means perusing a small sample in which we are asked khổng lồ compare apples to oranges to grapes khổng lồ dogs to lớn stars khổng lồ love lớn six.

This is hugely advantageous for political consulting firms because it is often hard to check their claims about how effective sầu they are. Politicians are deeply superstitious và seize on their own & others’ past successes to lớn guide their decisions moving forward. What’s more, the field of data-driven political persuasion is fairly new, meaning a company that can clalặng success in a realm many career politicians bởi not really understvà has a huge kinh doanh advantage. Say that you have sầu cracked the code lớn targeting voters with specific messages, and a lot of campaigns will write you checks.

Cambridge Analytica has not been around that long, but they have sầu been involved in several successful campaigns. There was Sen. Thom Tillis’s (R-N.C.) Senate chiến dịch in 2014, which he won by 1.5 points. There was the “Leave” chiến dịch in the United Kingdom in năm nhâm thìn which won by 3.8 points. And there was Trump, who lost the popular vote by 2.1 points but won the electoral college.

There were also losing campaigns. Before Trump, the highest-protệp tin effort Cambridge undertook was Cruz’s — & he lost. Sure, he ended up in second place in the delegate count despite being fairly unpopular the year before, but his strategy was lượt thích Trump’s: leverage a core base of support khổng lồ ride out a crowded field of candidates.

In June 2016, Polititeo reported that Cruz’s team “was disappointed in Cambridge Analytica’s services và stopped using them before the Nevadomain authority GOPhường caucuses in late February, according khổng lồ a former staffer for the Texas Republican.”

So it is hard khổng lồ say in the abstract the effect Cambridge might have sầu had in Trump’s race — & it is harder still khổng lồ say what role the laundered Facebook data played.

About a year after the election, Cambridge’s Nix said in an interview that his firm wasn’t able to leverage its psychographics on Trump’s behalf.

“We just didn’t have the time to rollout that survey. … We had khổng lồ build all the IT, all the infrastructure. There was nothing. There was 30 people on his chiến dịch. Thirty. Even Walker it had 160 (it’s probably why he went bust). And he was the first lớn crash out. So as I’ve said khổng lồ other of your colleagues, clearly there’s psychographic data that’s baked-in khổng lồ legacy models that we built before, because we’re not reinventing the wheel. using models that are based on models, that are based on models, & we’ve been building these models for nearly four years. And all of those models had psychographics in them. But did we go out và rollout a long khung quantitative psychographics survey specifically for Trump supporters? No. We just didn’t have sầu time. We just couldn’t vì chưng that.”

Given that the Trump campaign & Cambridge invested so much in targeting people online, and given that we know Russian actors tried khổng lồ leverage Facebook ads & social media lớn influence voters, there is a natural question as lớn whether those two efforts had any coordination.

“Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives khổng lồ certain voting jurisdictions in key states,” Peter Stone và Greg Gordon wrote. They quoted a former Pentagon staffer named Mike Carpenter. “There appears to lớn have been significant cooperation between Russia’s online propagandomain authority machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation,” Carpenter said.

Well, it depends on what you mean by “links.” We are in this weird moment where any even tangential liên kết to Russia or a Russian person is heralded as a sign of questionable collusion.

The Times reports that SCL Group had spoken with the Russian oil giant Lukoil in 2014 and 2015, và that the company “was interested in how data was used lớn target American voters, according to lớn two former company insiders who said there were at least three meetings with Lukoil executives in London và Turkey.” (In an interview with the “Today” show on Monday, Wylie reiterated this claim.)

The paper also notes that Cambridge included questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014 focus groups, though we will note this was also the time period in which Russia’s seizing of Crimea became central lớn American foreign policy conversations.

Late last year, the Daily Beast reported that Nix had contacted WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange before the election offering lớn host emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s chiến dịch chairman to lớn create a searchable database. Assange declined the offer. Those emails are believed to lớn have been stolen by Russian hackers linked khổng lồ the country’s intelligence agencies.

One other links is worth mentioning. Kogan, the Cambridge researcher who developed the tool that led lớn the Facebook suspension, had reportedly also received a grant from the Russian government lớn research social truyền thông.

“Nothing I did on the Russian project was at all related to lớn Cambridge Analytica in any way,” Kogan told the Guardian.

Update: The Cambridge Analytica news continued Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, another new revelation.