In “I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool”: Meet the data war whistleblower, Cadwalladr outlines the process by which different people and companies, including Cambridge Analytics and Christopher Wylie, were able to leverage Facebook data to sway votes.
The first important point talked about was when Christoper Wylie was able to create profiles on millions of different Facebook users. Through these profiles he was able to find a correlation between personality and voting. The correlation found was “high openness and low conscientiousness” is correlated with liberal democrat votes, which makes them a good target for potential voters. This correlation is extremely useful to anyone who may want to disrupt or sway the US election in favor of one candidate. For example, Cambridge Analytica (CA) was communicating this research with Lukoil, the second largest oil producer in Russia. The context of this communication was the petroleum business, but Lukoil answers to Putin, so there is reason to believe Russia’s government had access to this information. Additionally, it was pointed out that Facebook did very little to reclaim the data stolen from them and even when they realized that there were massive amounts of data being taken, all its took was for CA to say it was for ‘academic’ purposes.
This entire process is extremely scary from the perspective of a democratic system. From Facebook essentially allowing a third-party to access their data, to this third party then giving the data to Russia where it would benefit them to cause turmoil in the US. It is instances like these where the argument for stronger privacy policies stands out to me and makes me wonder if it would have been possible for Wylie to learn so much about personality’s relation to votes if there had been a better system in place.