Will Rinehart Explains the Cambridge Analytica Story


You’ve read the story of how Facebook over-shares with app developers and web sites, including shady Cambridge Analytica. If you read the left-wing press, you’ve seen the theory that Cambridge Analytica gave Steve Bannon the power to bend minds and influence elections. You know Congress is anxious to summon Mark Zuckerberg to the Hill for a very non-partisan hearing.

It’s obvious that some parts of this story are hokey, but you’re not sure which ones. You’ve come to the right place because Will Rinehart lays it all out in this podcast.

Here’s a summary:

  • An academic named Aleksandr Kogan obtained information about 50 million Facebook profiles by mining information Facebook made available to an app he wrote that had some 270,000 users. This was permitted at the time, but is no longer possible.
  • Kogan sold this data to Cambridge Analytica, which was not permitted under Facebook’s terms of use.
  • Cambridge Analytica claimed it was able to construct precise “psychographic profiles” of the 50 million users, but this is nonsense.
  • Even if CA had been able to construct such profiles, this kind of information is essentially useless for election purposes.
  • Kogan has ties to Russia: he’s an associate professor at a Russian university, but his real job is at Cambridge in the UK.
  • Voter profiling is nothing new; Republicans have been doing it since Karl Rove ran the Bush 43 campaigns.
  • Obama’s profiling in the 2008 election was awesome.
  • The Trump campaign was better at profiling than the Clinton campaign, but that comes down to the RNC’s data.
  • Trump didn’t use CA data after September because it was useless.

Will wrote a good blog post on this story, Answering the Three Big Questions Surrounding Cambridge Analytica; check it out.

Some other good posts on the story:

My Cow Game Extracted Your Facebook Data

The Graph API: Key Points in the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Debacle

Trump Donor Asked Data Firm If It Could Better Organize Hacked Emails

FTC opens investigation into Facebook after Cambridge Analytica scrapes millions of users’ personal information

Apple’s Tim Cook: Facebook’s privacy blunder ‘so dire’ we need regulations

To Facebook — and Its Critics: Please Don’t Screw Up Our Internet

The last post – by Jeff Jarvis – is amusing because the writer was one of the proponents of radical transparency who pushed Facebook to promote radical sharing. It didn’t turn out the way he thought it would.