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How you’re Just a Commodity in High-Stake Data Trade

Wylie, 24, served as research director at Cambridge Analytica for a year and a half and saw closely how the firm combined psychological research

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Commodities, Data, Trade
Billed as "a pink-haired, nose-ringed oracle sent from the future," Wylie first began working for an obscure British military contractor SCL Group. Pixabay

If you have seen the latest Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” on Cambridge Analytica (CA), a military contractor and psychological warfare firm involving a complex web of Facebook, Russian intrusion, the Trump campaign and Brexit referendum, it is time to meet Christopher Wylie — one of the two whistleblowers who blew the lid off the dark secrets of the “full service propaganda machine” and complete the dirty picture. Commodity.

The biggest data scandal of the decade that shook the ground beneath Facebook and its senior leadership, “Cambridge Analytica is Steve Bannon’s (former Trump adviser) psychological mindf**k tool,” writes Wylie in his just released book, titled “Mindf**k: Inside Cambridge Analytica’s Plot to Break the World”.

Billed as “a pink-haired, nose-ringed oracle sent from the future,” Wylie first began working for an obscure British military contractor SCL Group.

Conservative strategist Bannon became involved with the SCL Group and brought on board billionaire Robert Mercer, who was on a crusade to start his own far-right insurgency and launch an ideological assault on America with SCL subsidiary Cambridge Analytica.

Commodities, Data, Trade
The biggest data scandal of the decade that shook the ground beneath Facebook and its senior leadership, “Cambridge Analytica is Steve Bannon’s (former Trump adviser) psychological mindf**k tool,” writes Wylie. Pixabay

Wylie, 24, served as research director at Cambridge Analytica for a year and a half and saw closely how the firm combined psychological research with private Facebook data of 87 million users to make an invisible weapon with the power to change what the US voters perceived as real in the 2016 presidential elections with Russian intrusion.

And when Britain shocked the world by voting the leave the European Union (EU), Wylie realised it was time to expose the associates.

“The story of Cambridge Analytica shows how our identities and behaviour have become commodities in the high-stake data trade, the companies that control the flow of information are among the most powerful in the world, the algorithms they have designed in secret are shaping minds in ways previously unimaginable,” says Wylie.

You cannot escape Silicon Valley, the new epicentre of our crisis of perception.

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“My work with Cambridge Analytica exposed the dark side of tech innovation. We innovated, Russia innovated and Facebook — the same site where you share your party invites and baby pictures — allowed these innovations to be unleashed,” he writes.

His continuous tirade against data hunters bore fruits when in a historic judgment on July 24 this year, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) slapped a massive $5 billion fine on Facebook over users’ privacy violations in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, along with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) directing the social networking platform to pay $100 million penalty for making misleading disclosures regarding the risk of misuse of user data.

Wylie, who risked his life to share the deep secrets running into thousands of pages with US officials saw greed, power, racism and colonialism up close at Cambridge Analytica.

“I saw how billionaires behave when they want to shape the world in their image. I saw the most bizarre dark niches of our society as a whistleblower what big companies will do to protect their profiles. I saw flag-waving patriots turn a blind eye to the defacement of the rule of law on the most important constitutional question of a generation,” he laments.

Commodities, Data, Trade
Conservative strategist Bannon became involved with the SCL Group and brought on board billionaire Robert Mercer, who was on a crusade to start his own far-right insurgency and launch an ideological assault on America with SCL subsidiary Cambridge Analytica. Pixabay

Cambridge Analytica had 5,000 data points on every American — invisible information that was not visible to anyone except the data scientists at the firm.

According to Wylie, we have seen the value of personal data create entirely new business models and huge profits for social media platforms such as Facebook who have vigorously argued that they are a “free” service.

Hundreds of millions of Americans entered into Facebook’s invisible architecture, thinking it was an innocuous place to share pictures and follow their favourite celebrities.

They were drawn into the convenience of connecting with friends and the ability to fend off boredom with games and apps. In reality, they were guinea pigs for millions of advertisers.

Also Read- Under Time Pressure to Answer, People may Lie to you by Responding with Socially Desirable Answer

Wylie argues that if we are to prevent another Cambridge Analytica from attacking our civil institutions, we have to shun the mistaken view “that somehow, the law cannot keep up with technology”.

“The technology sector loves to parrot this idea, as it tends to make legislators feel too stupid or out of touch to challenge their power, but the law can keep up with technology, just as with medicines, civil engineering food standards, energy and countless other highly technical fields.

“We need new rules to help create a healthy friction on the Internet, like speed bumps, to ensure safety new technologies and ecosystems,” he writes. (IANS)

Next Story

Facebook Loves Your Data, and Rakes in Moolah Every Year

Facebook is facing scrutiny after personal data of 87 million users were harvested by UK-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has slapped Facebook with a $5 billion fine as a result of the breach

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facebook, WhatsApp, stories, feature
An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

Our data is invaluable to Facebook and the social networking giant earned $157.41 average revenue per user (ARPU) in the US and Canada in the past five quarters.

In comparison, Facebook earned only $15 average revenue per user in Asia-Pacific in the same time period, it Q3 2019 earnings have revealed.

Facebook is earning triple the revenue from its US users as from its users in Europe where average revenue per user was mere $50.73 in the last five quarters.

“Part of that is attributable to the fact that American consumers spend more in general — per capita consumption in the US is about 80 per cent higher than in Europe,” reports Slate.

Facebook has nearly 1.62 billion daily active users and 2.4 billion monthly active users.

A cache of recently leaked Facebook documents, obtained by NBC News, showed how the CEO Mark Zuckerberg oversaw plans to consolidate the social network’s power by treating users’ data as a bargaining chip.

Fake, News, WhatsApp, Facebook, India
The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

This trove comprises approximately 7,000 pages in total, of which about 4,000 are internal Facebook communications such as emails, web chats, notes, presentations and spreadsheets, primarily from 2011 to 2015.

About 1,200 pages are marked as “highly confidential”.

According to the report, the emails, notes and other documents dated as far back as 2011 and were supposed to be kept out of the public eye pending the civil case in California.

Despite dismissing Tinder co-founder Sean Rad as irrelevant, Zuckerberg also allowed the dating app special access to user data, as revealed by leaked exchanges.

Access to Facebook data helped Tinder thrive, but there came a point when it inched closer to losing that access.

The leaked correspondence was part of a long-running lawsuit in California state court, between former Facebook app developer Six4three and Facebook.

Corporate, America, Climate Change
FILE – In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, Calif. VOA

In 2014, Facebook, which is facing several antitrust investigations, announced a new set of rules to prevent third-party app developers from getting access to data on users’ friends. The social networking giant set May 2015 as the deadline for complying with the new rules. But some firms continued to have access to the crucial data, including Tinder.

In yet another data breach, Facebook earlier this month revealed that at least 100 app developers may have accessed users’ data for months, confirming that at least 11 partners “accessed group members’ information in the last 60 days”.

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The social networking giant found that the apps — primarily social media management and video streaming apps — retained access to group member information, like names and profile pictures in connection with group activity, from the Groups API (application programming interface).

Facebook is facing scrutiny after personal data of 87 million users were harvested by UK-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has slapped Facebook with a $5 billion fine as a result of the breach. (IANS)