Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: 1984, Cambridge Analytica and what others know of our selves

21 Responses

  • Carl Anderson,

    That article on China's Social Credit scheme is absolutely terrifying. Thanks for posting.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2017 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Thanks Russell. This explains why this story has taken such a long time to become an international one. Over a year ago there were some stories about Cambridge Analytica and what they were doing but I suppose it seemed so implausible that they weren't taken seriously.

    It also seems similar tactics were used by the Liberals in last weekend's South Australian election.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3226 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Carl Anderson,

    That article on China’s Social Credit scheme is absolutely terrifying. Thanks for posting.

    Tze Ming Mok drew my attention to it a little while ago. And yes, really alarming – not least in that it may well scoop up people resident in New Zealand.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • SHG, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    “Seems”?

    nup • Since Oct 2010 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Wow.

    Three days before he was suspended as CEO of Analytica, Alexander Nix formed a new company with Rebekah Mercer as a co-director.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • WaynePhillips,

    Worth noting that Cambridge Analytica barely exists, other than as a shell. Contracts won by CA were serviced by SCL

    SCL, the parent company, seems like another from the genus giant vampire squid

    http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/

    This story has plenty of legs

    United Kingdom • Since Sep 2014 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    If George Orwell only got one thing wrong about 1984, it's that Big Brother can have tradeable stock options.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    ...a video sting carried out on Cambridge Analytica's senior management. First, them talking about the full range of dirty tricks their company could offer in foreign elections. And then, bragging about what they depicted as the company's comprehensive involvement in the Trump campaign, including what appear to be illegal activities and the destruction of material communications.

    How does one go about arguing to the majority that this is a significant and serious thing which needs to be addressed?

    I've been watching much of the fallout from the US election result, as many people have. The whole thing's so polarised, I guess because a lot of people who are strongly convinced of something do not want to accept or acknowledge that there's a chance they might have been manipulated through nefarious means.

    In the end, we're not talking about someone secretly changing people's votes at the ballot box. We're talking about targeting people's specifically identified weaknesses, on a mass scale, to psychologically manipulate them into thinking something and then voting a certain way. If and where manipulation occurred, it seems to be of a sort where masses of people simply can't imagine that they'd ever have wanted anything different. Suggesting to people that they're not capable of independent thought is, understandably, quite an embarrassing thing, even though it's probably more about human nature than specific individuals.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • WaynePhillips, in reply to Russell Brown,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosedive
    Has anyone seen the Black Mirror episode about social ratings?

    United Kingdom • Since Sep 2014 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to WaynePhillips,

    I haven't seen it but the synopsis sounds comparable with a (fairly light-hearted) episode of The Orville that was on TV a few months ago.

    If you can tolerate satire of Star Trek TNG and are within NZ, TVNZ OnDemand still has it up: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/the-orville/episodes/s1-e7

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    watching the hidden camera footage the CA people expose themselves as a variety of human who will put on a false facade, 'pillars of the establishment' type thing.
    But whose moral compass will always align with what is more profitable for them.
    Im getting tired of seeing the same behaviour over and over again.

    And as for China and its social credit. Its crowd control the easy way, for those in power. Entirely predictable and completely sinister.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to andin,

    But whose moral compass will always align with what is more profitable for them.
    Im getting tired of seeing the same behaviour over and over again.

    In other words, war profiteers but with big data instead of guns and bombs. Or should that be "information war profiteers"?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Campbell,

    My friend and sometime-colleague Martin was on morning report talking about this the other day:

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018636999/the-facebook-cambridge-analytica-saga-explained

    He makes the very good point that the bigger issue is the opacity of Facebook itself, and the way it allows campaigns to send _huge_ numbers of highly targeted messages to individuals. These messages could be contradictory, or dishonest, playing to the worst dogwhistle demographics. It has the potential to be _really_ corrosive to democracy.

    How much of a problem is it? Who knows. There's no good way to analyse the impact because facebook won't release any info about what people are exposed to on their platform.

    We had a rushed attempt at it last year, in the run-up to the UK general election.
    I wrote a browser add-on which logs what consenting volunteers see when they're on facebook, so we could try and see which messages were aimed where. But really it's a drop in the bucket - too-small sample size and it completely misses mobile exposure.
    (Still, source code here if anyone wants to try something similar:
    https://github.com/bcampbell/facelog ;-)

    But the CA stuff, apart from general scumbaggery and some legally-dubious actions is a bit of a sideshow.

    Christchurch • Since May 2015 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    it may well scoop up people resident in New Zealand.

    Do you mean when it's rolled out here, or just people here getting included in the Chinese-in-China version? Because the latter is both obvious and part of the declared intention if the system.

    My fear is more that the techniques they use are easily extended to everywhere else that have social media systems, and they're very useful to governments (rather than just being useful to their corporate owners). I can't imagine a National government turning down the offer of such a rich and useful source of information, especially given how much they used even the limited shadow of the idea that they had recently. Their equivalent in Australia has been similarly free when given the opportunity.

    Whether Labour will be any better is yet to be seen. Hopefully The Greens will be keeping an eye out. But watch for "commercial in confidence" and "national security" being used to deny them (and us) access to knowledge of what's being done.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    FWIW one problem I'm seeing more and more is that even in "liberal democracies" like ours we increasingly have to have profiles on the various social media sites to navigate modern life. From employers who assume you're lying because you have something to hide if you won't give them your Facebook profile (and they can't find it), through to the sort-of-trivial council communicating things strictly via Facebook (seriously. "want to know when submissions open? Sign up for facebook alerts" and there's no other channel given.

    Viz, you don't have to impose a monolithic surveillance system in order to get a decent chunk of the benefits. Just requiring people's social media accounts then paying trivial amounts to target ads at them will tell you a lot. "there are 432 people in the subset A+B+C" type things.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Attachment

    Three days before he was suspended as CEO of Analytica, Alexander Nix formed a new company with Rebekah Mercer as a co-director.

    Technically, the company was registered on 11 August 2017, and lists its business as "Data processing, hosting and related activities".

    Alexander James Ashburner Nix was appointed as a director on 23 January 2018, the same day that Julian David Wheatland and Alexander Tayler ceased being persons of "significant control". Also appointed as directors were Johnson Chun Shun Ko, Cheng Peng, and Ahmad Ashraf Hosny Al Khatib on 23 January 2018. Al Khatib, by the bye is a citizen of the Seychelles, Ko is Hong Kong Chinese and Peng lists herself as British, living in Hong Kong.

    Tayler is the Chief Data Officer of CA and Wheatland is a director of SCL, the parent company, so it wasn't just a shelf company as I first thought, but a long-planned escape route. Wheatland is listed as the Chief Operating Officer of Emerdata and is still on the board. Tayler is not currently on the board. Wheatland is also a director of a company called Fanalytica with a Sussex address, and a board comprised of apparent newbies as only Wheatland and one other have other directorships and the other appears to be a rent-a-director with ties to Liverpool FC. Watch this space.

    Wheatland is on the board of a number of other SCL companies, many of which are domiciled at Parr House, 215 Cumnor Hill, Oxford, Oxfordshire (which Wheatland has listed in the past as his correspondence address). It's odd that the Companies Office still lists Wheatland as an active director of Emerdata, when they have a declaration of cessation logged, and no subsequent appointment, but I guess that will come out in the wash as the media dig deeper.

    Jennifer and Rebekah Mercer were added as directors on 16 March 2018

    The Emerdata address was changed from 16 Great Queen Street London (which may have been the address of the lawyers used to incorporate) to Pkf Littlejohn, 1 Westferry Circus Canary Wharf London on 13 February 2018 (the day the companies office was notified of Nix's appointment) which Nix lists as his correspondence address on the Companies' Office database.

    However, as further wrinkle, Cambridge Analytica (UK) Limited lists Level 2, 1 Westferry Circus, London, E14 4HD as its address so who the fuck knows without a site visit. CA(UK)Ltd still lists Nix as "Director", despite news reports of him being suspended. But the SCL rabbit hole is deep (see attached graphic) and CA(UK)Ltd lists Nix as its only officer, appointed January 2015.

    CA(UK)Ltd was incorporated on Jan 6 2015 as SCL USL Ltd, as a Private, Limited by shares entity, and the entire shareholding of 10,000 shares was held by the company, which transferred them on 3/2/15 to, you guessed it, Alexander Nix. They changed the name of the company on 20/4/2016 right when they were courting Bannon, so the whistleblower is accurate there.

    There is, incidentally, a company called Cambridge Analytica Ltd registered in 2014 which seems to have no relation to the Nix companies.

    So, a truly fascinating rabbit hole and I don't envy any journo trying to sort the SCL web of companies, but it is not strictly accurate to say that the company appeared out of the blue 3 days before Nix was suspended as CEO.

    PS That graphic looks small when you click on it but it will embiggen readably quite a lot.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to WaynePhillips,

    SCL, the parent company, seems like another from the genus giant vampire squid

    http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/03/20/scl-a-very-british-coup/</q>

    I've seen discussion on-line that the nerve gas event is a hoax to divert people from finding out about SCL/CA and their links to the Conservative Party and establishment. On the one hand, Russia's got form; on the other, it's hard to dismiss the possibility out of hand.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to nzlemming,

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

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