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How Trump’s campaign used data from millions of Facebook users

How Trump's campaign used data from millions of Facebook users
How Trump's campaign used data from millions of Facebook users

How Trump’s campaign used data from millions of Facebook users

These data, recovered illegally, would have made it possible, among other things, to develop very targeted advertisements vis-à-vis potential Republican voters,

Donald Trump’s campaign is again being blamed. And the giant of social networks too. Pressured by a strong controversy in the United States, the firm Mark Zuckerberg announced Friday, March 16, to have “suspended” from Cambridge Analytica company.

This data analytics company worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. It is accused of collecting, without their consent, the personal information of tens of millions of social network users,

What is Cambridge Analytica?

An American subsidiary of the UK-based* SCL  marketing company (which defines its three skills: “anticipate, understand, influence”), Cambridge Analytica specializes in collecting data for electoral purposes.

Marked politically right, she worked in the United States for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, but also in the United Kingdom for the pro-Brexit Leave.EU group , the company was led by Steve Bannon, a close adviser to Donald Trump before he was ousted from the White House in the summer of 2017.

Another name related to the company is the attention of billionaire Robert Mercer, who financed Cambridge Analytica for $ 15 million. Climate sceptic, anti-abortion and close to libertarians, this important donor of the Republican Party is the owner of the right-wing American website Breitbart News *

What is this company accused of?

Cambridge Analytica fabricated the Trump campaign’s ‘psychological warfare weapon’, a former staff member, Christopher Wylie, told the Guardian, a whistleblower well-placed to know it. 24 years old at the time, who ” devised the plan to capture a considerable amount of data on Facebook, before using them for political purposes,”

The aim was to provide Steve Bannon, director of the Donald Trump campaign, with software tools that could spot potential supporters of the Republican candidate, and target them precisely with online election ads, report the American dailies.

Donald Trump’s campaign also reportedly used the data to simulate voter turnout or identify areas where Trump’s travel would be most effective.

To design these tools, the company uses Aleksandr Kogan, who works for the parent company, SCL.

This researcher at the University of Cambridge (UK) is designing an application called Thisisyourdigitallife, presented as an application for academic research.

This application, specifies Le Monde, included a questionnaire. It was necessary to be connected to the social network and to be registered on the electoral lists of the United States to fill the questionnaire. To motivate the goodwill, the company paid the Internet users.

What data has been recovered?

Initially, the developer was able to retrieve the data of some 270,000 people who downloaded this application. He has collected all the information from their Facebook account (date of birth, geo-location, tastes, opinions, “liked” content, etc.).

But these 270,000 Internet users also allowed access to all their Facebook “friends”. Because the application, details Le Monde, has “taken part of a feature of the social network since deactivated, which allows it to also aspire personal data belonging to the contacts of the users answering the questionnaire”.

In total, the data from 30 (according to The New York Times ) to 50 (according to The Guardian) a million users were stolen, without the interested parties being notified. One-third of active Facebook members in North America would be concerned and nearly a quarter of US voters.

On his Twitter account, Cambridge Analytica said, Saturday, March 17, to have destroyed the Facebook data provided by the GSR company Aleksandr Kogan. The company also claims not to have used this data for the Trump campaign.

What is the responsibility of Facebook?

Facebook was aware of at least part of the data theft since 2015, reveal the two US newspapers. But the Internet users whose data were sucked did not know anything about it, since the social network waited until March 16, 2018, to formalize the information.

“In 2015, we learned that Aleksandr Kogan lied to us and violated the platform’s policy by transmitting the recovered data to an application using a Facebook login interface to SCL / Cambridge Analytica,” 

Paul Grewal said in a statement. , vice-president and deputy legal director of the American social network following the scoop of the two Anglo-Saxon media. He states that Kogan had the right to collect the data, but not to transmit it to third parties (Cambridge Analytica and Eunoia Technologies).

This “violation” of the rules has had little impact since Facebook has not taken legal action. The social network simply deleted the application in 2015 for “non-compliance with its policy”. Even lightness about the information stolen: at no time did Mark Zuckerberg’s firm verify that the data had been destroyed.

” Several days ago, we received information that, contrary to the promises made to us, not all data was destroyed,” says Paul Grewal. The New York Times claims that copies of the data obtained by Cambridge Analytica still exist and that some journalists have even been able to consult them.


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