The Twittersphere is abuzz with news that a Republican data firm, hired by local (to Colorado) Republican operatives, used Facebook information improperly and without the knowledge of the firms that purchased it. Is this the story of the year? Nah. It’s old news and wasn’t even illegal. Stick with us.
The Guardian story featuring the Cambridge Whistleblower wasn’t new news. It simply confirmed what we already knew. This story actually broke in 2015. Three major and credible publications reported on Cambridge Analytica’s role in Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign. The firm was pretty transparent about how this product worked, so it’s difficult to believe that Facebook wasn’t aware that the company had “psychographic” information.
In any case, Cambridge Analytica’s use of data from Facebook was legal at the time. In fact, the Obama campaign used the same information in the same way in 2012. Actually, in the middle of the 2016 election, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, was featured in a video on YouTube, explaining how his tool worked. The whole time, he had a big Facebook logo behind him on a screen under the category of “big data.”
Even in 2017, The Intercept published a report on how this company used Facebook data. The internet is literally filled with articles about Cambridge Analytica and its data mining between 2015 and 2017. And, this is just the Republican side of the aisle. There are many articles about how Democrats used this type of data.
How did Facebook not know?
Then, there’s the question of how effective it was – or, in this case, wasn’t. Here’s what an expert in this field said about psychographic profiling:
“Psychographics are overall a big fail. It sounds scary as hell, and the amount of data they can match and legally obtain is terrifying. However, two presidential campaigns spent millions with them in 2016 — Ted Cruz and Trump. Both campaigns have said the data was useless.”
Expanded research on behavioral communications and psychographic targeting has shown that it just doesn’t work. That’s right. It’s utter crap. Many who used Cambridge were deeply disappointed in the results, according to the New York Times.
We’re not here as apologists for Cambridge Analytica because they suck and they’re ineffective, but the pearl clutching by Facebook and fellow Democrats is rich seeing as they pioneered this technique.
Oh, and by the way, the firm did break the law. It violated Federal Election Commission rules by employing non-citizens – and, no, they were not from Russia. They were from the UK. But that’s not really interesting, is it?