Examining the Implications of Cambridge Analytica

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Cambridge Analytica is a political consulting firm based in England, which has been the subject of major concern after what is alleged to be major involvement in the Trump Presidential campaign. Cambridge Analytica (CA) acts primarily as a data analysis company, who claim to focus on personality traits in order to drive the behaviour of individuals. The company were also involved in the Ted Cruz and Ben Carson campaigns in late 2015, which paid CA 750,000, and 220,000 US dollars respectively. Cruz and Trump’s campaigns both fired CA, claiming that they were ineffective.

The company teamed up with Global Science Research (GSR), a data-gathering group, and used ‘Amazon Mechanical Turk,’ a crowdsourcing site, which would pay users to take a personality test, and provide access to their Facebook account. Amazon later banned GSR from using the service, after repeated violation flags. Facebook claims that after requesting GSR to delete the information, the data was deleted. However, in 2017, it was revealed that GSR had collected the information of nearly 40 million users in another data collection.

CA tried to prevent an exposé by Channel 4 News, in which a reporter posed as an agent from Sri Lanka, interested in hiring CA to achieve electoral success. In the undercover footage they claim to have used the data to produce language and imagery that would be engaging to the intended viewer, and claimed to have done so in America, Africa, Mexico, Malaysia, and then Brazil. They also claim to be able to determine hopes and fears, which will then be preyed upon, even those fears that are unconscious and until faced with them, unknown to an individual. They gave the presidential election in Kenya as an example of their work, claiming they did everything, which is in marked contrast to their public stance in which they distance themselves from said election.

CA also alleged to be involved with specialist organisations that could gain an opposition’s secrets, claiming to know former agents of MI5. They also claimed to sometimes operate under different names, so as to hide the involvement of CA itself. Alexander Nix, the currently suspended CEO, later detailed several situations that they could film and use against an opponent, such as sending a woman to have sex with the individual and record it for use against them, which by definition is entrapment. Nix and several others later claimed after the release that they were overselling the product, to obtain new clients.

It appears that one of two things is true, either CA does what the exposé shows, or they have over-hyped themselves into an international situation. The behaviour of Facebook has been roundly criticised, from their failure to act, and their threat of a lawsuit to cover it up. Several campaigns have been launched in relation to Facebook either to regulate it worldwide through legislation or encouraging people to simply to delete Facebook.

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