Zuckerberg Sucked Into Data Scandal – From Helping Trump To Bribing Politicians With Sex

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Mar 20 2018
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Facebook has been losing billions of dollars in market value since the revelation that private information from 51.3 million Facebook users improperly ended up in the hands of data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica. The UK-based political consultancy firm had successfully acquired the data for data mining, data analysis to strategically target electoral process.


The social network leader’s stock price dropped 6.8%, dragging technology stocks and spooking the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), erasing 335 points at closing bell. Mark Zuckerberg has been busy selling his Facebook shares. So far this year, the founder of Facebook has sold 4.9 million shares, making a cool US$900 million.


Had Zuckerberg hold on to his shares, the Monday’s drop – Facebook’s worst one day decline since 2012 – would see him making US$40 million less. Zuckerberg had revealed in his September SEC filing that he plans to sell at least US$6 billion worth of Facebook stock over the next 18 months to fund his Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative.

Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative

However, at the rate this data scandal is exploding, Zuckerberg could be looking at less than US$6 billion from his shares. So, what’s the story about this so-called Facebook crisis? In 2014, Aleksandr Kogan – a psychology researcher at Cambridge University – created a Facebook app called “thisisyourdigitallife” with a personality test for academic purpose.


To lure users to take the quiz, some 270,000 Facebook users were paid to download the psychological testing app. In the process, those users, thinking it was harmless, gave the app permission to access data via Facebook on themselves and their friends. Professor Kogan subsequently passed those invaluable data to Cambridge Analytica through his company Global Science Research (GSR).


When Facebook found out about the breach in 2015, the social media shut down the professor’s access and asked Cambridge Analytica to certify that it had deleted the user data. On Friday, Facebook suspended Cambridge from its system, suggesting that the social media had finally realized that the information wasn’t erased at all.

Facebook - Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Facebook is now in hot soup because they knew for two years that a data firm harvested data from more than 50 million profiles of U.S. voters without their permission but did nothing to protect its users. Trying to cover their screw-up, Facebook threatened to sue in a bid to prevent “The Guardian” publishing an exposé on the data harvesting.


Still, despite its admission of being “lied to” about Cambridge Analytica activities, the defiant Facebook insisted there was no breach of their system and conveniently blamed the third party. It claimed that Kogan “gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels” but “did not subsequently abide by our rules” because he passed the information on to third parties.


Facebook argues that since nobody hacked into their system, it cannot be considered as data breach. At most, the social media thinks it’s just a violation of Facebook’s terms of services. So, what’s the big deal with the data harvesting since this is just a violation of terms of services? The real problem is this – Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election, not Hillary Clinton.


Cambridge Analytica was initially working for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign as early as 2015. But in 2016, after Cruz’s campaign had faltered, Jared Kushner tapped it to take over data operations for the Trump campaign. Therefore, Facebook is being accused as partner-in-crime, having facilitated Donald Trump in what is known as “information warfare.”


The plan was to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. Armed with psychological profiles of 230 million Americans, they were then targeted with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.


Amusingly, a former Obama campaign official – Carol Davidson – has revealed that the social media company was “supportive” of a 2012 Obama campaign to mine massive amounts of Facebook data. So, it’s okay for a liberal Democrat Barack Obama to win by harvesting Facebook data but not okay for a conservative Republican Donald Trump to do the same?

Mark Zuckerberg with Barack Obama

Politicians are sharpening knives and are calling on Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear before lawmakers to explain how U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica, the data-analysis firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, was able to harvest the personal information. And they might want to include CEOs from Twitter and Google for public questioning too.


Zuckerberg’s trouble doesn’t confine in America alone. The Britain Brexit is now also being blamed on Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. The data scandal reaches its climax when British Channel 4 News released secret recording of Cambridge Analytica executives boasting how they manipulated election campaigns in other countries too.


Channel 4 News spy, posing as a wealthy Sri Lankan and potential client, secured hidden camera footage of Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica Chief Data Officer Alex Taylor, and Cambridge Analytica Managing Director Mark Turnbull during private meetings at hotels around London between Nov 2017 and Jan 2018.

Alexander Nix - CEO of Cambridge Analytica

Mark Turnbull told Channel 4’s undercover investigative reporting team that his firm secretly stage-managed President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2013 and 2017 Kenyan elections. Turnbull said – “We have rebranded the entire party twice, written the manifesto, done research, analysis, messaging. I think we wrote all the speeches and we staged the whole thing.”


Besides Kenya, they have used a web of shell companies to disguise their activities in elections in Mexico, Malaysia and Brazil. Mr. Turnbull said – “We’ve done it in Mexico, we’ve done it in Malaysia and now we’re going to Brazil. It has to happen without anyone thinking that’s propaganda. Because the moment you think that’s propaganda, the next question is, who’s put that out?”


But Facebook data isn’t the only tool Cambridge Analytica used to manipulate election process. Mr. Nix dropped the bombshell on other methods that they could use – including the use of bribes, ex-spies, fake news and even Ukrainian sex workers to entrap politicians around the world. He explained that merely digging up oppositional research about an opponent isn’t enough.

Libya Investment Authority Sues Goldman Sachs - A Pair of Prostitutes

To create sex scandal, the Cambridge Analytica CEO said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”. Other method such as corruption involved setting up of meetings, and secretly filming them, and “instantly having video evidence of corruption.”


Nix explained how Cambridge Analytica would discreetly push damaging material onto social media and the internet – “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.”


For clients who don’t want to be seen working with a foreign company, Nix unveiled Cambridge Analytica would set up fake IDs, websites, and identities in target countries to gather information and blackmail material. He bragged – “We can be students doing research projects attached to a university, we can be tourists, there are so many options we can look at. I have lots of experience in this.

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg - Scandal


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