Psychological Warfare and Hijacking Democracy

It was quite unsettling to read this fairly long piece. Would the SAFE Network be a force in preventing more of these things in the future? No doubt data mining is happening en made today and what it’ll end up being used for could be very scary indeed. I’ve highlighted some paragraphs I thought were relevant to the project.

Whoever owns this data owns the future.

And it was Facebook that made it possible. It was from Facebook that Cambridge Analytica obtained its vast dataset in the first place. Earlier, psychologists at Cambridge University harvested Facebook data (legally) for research purposes and published pioneering peer-reviewed work about determining personality traits, political partisanship, sexuality and much more from people’s Facebook “likes”. And SCL/Cambridge Analytica contracted a scientist at the university, Dr Aleksandr Kogan, to harvest new Facebook data. And he did so by paying people to take a personality quiz which also allowed not just their own Facebook profiles to be harvested, but also those of their friends – a process then allowed by the social network.

The company also (perfectly legally) bought consumer datasets – on everything from magazine subscriptions to airline travel – and uniquely it appended these with the psych data to voter files. It matched all this information to people’s addresses, their phone numbers and often their email addresses. “The goal is to capture every single aspect of every voter’s information environment,” said David. “And the personality data enabled Cambridge Analytica to craft individual messages.”

The security work was to be the prize for the political work. Documents seen by the Observer show that this was a proposal to capture citizens’ browsing history en masse, recording phone conversations and applying natural language processing to the recorded voice data to construct a national police database, complete with scores for each citizen on their propensity to commit crime.

In the US, the government is bound by strict laws about what data it can collect on individuals. But, for private companies anything goes. Is it unreasonable to see in this the possible beginnings of an authoritarian surveillance state?

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