The more I read about this so-called data breach at Facebook, the more I am convinced it is nothing beyond sour grapes from lefties that their candidate lost in the last US presidential campaign.
From the timelines to the fact that Obama did far more data mining in 2012 before Facebook tightened rules on personal data, this story is about outrage that Trump won rather than, shocker……Facebook lets companies and politicians market to you.
Full disclosure, I have been a Facebook advertiser for years and have used their platform to grow my own audience by using the features that Facebook offers any business, but that the media and politicians are now outraged over.
I won’t claim to be on the level of Cambridge Analytica or Trump campaign Digital Director Brad Parscale but I know about micro-targeting, how to only pay for what you want to reach and how the platform can segment people based on their history of using the social media platform.
This latest outrage over the idea that Facebook was used to target users with marketing is just the latest attempt by the left to explain to themselves why Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. I can explain it in a few words.
Hillary Clinton is entirely unlikable.
That Facebook is used to micro-target users based on their likes is nothing new, as the saying goes it is a feature, not a bug.
Much has been made of the Canadian “whistle-blower” in this story, Christopher Wylie. Wylie is a 28 year-old who previously worked for the Liberals from 2007 until 2009 and according to a report by the Canadian Press, tried to pitch them on invasive social media data mining way back then.
The report suggests that they rejected him in 2009 but after his time with Cambridge Analytica he was back in Ottawa pitching Justin Trudeau’s Liberals who signed him to a contract in 2016.
As for Wylie’s work for Trump, there really wasn’t any.
Even the original New York Times story on this that started the media feeding frenzy admits that by the start of 2015, Wylie was gone from the offices of Cambridge Analytica. Trump did not announce his campaign until June 16, 2015.
The original use for the data that CA had collected was not for the Trump campaign. The Times story acknowledges that there are even conflicting accounts of what, if anything was used.
Cambridge executives have offered conflicting accounts about the use of psychographic data on the campaign. Mr. Nix has said that the firm’s profiles helped shape Mr. Trump’s strategy — statements disputed by other campaign officials — but also that Cambridge did not have enough time to comprehensively model Trump voters.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, recorded last October, long before this was headline news, Brad Parscale, since named Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, dismissed the idea that he used the psychographic data from Cambridge because he said that method just doesn’t work.
That doesn’t mean Parscale, and by extension the Trump campaign, didn’t use micro-targeting. Of course they did. But so did Clinton and Sanders and Cruz and everyone else vying to be president or elected in the digital age.
It is beyond strange to watch politicians screeching about Facebook being used for data mining to locate voters. It has as much authenticity as Captain Renault in Casablanca saying that he is, “Shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on here,” just before he collects his winnings.
A final note, in 2012 the Obama campaign stripped out far more data from Facebook in order to win and their efforts were celebrated.
Facebook users that downloaded the Obama 2012 app unwittingly gave the campaign access to their entire friends list. With 1 million downloads and an estimate of 190 friends on average, that meant the campaign had access to 190 million profiles that they could target.
As Obama digital staffer Carol Davidsen tweeted just this week, even Facebook was amazed at how much data the Obama campaign was able to strip out.
Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.
— Carol Davidsen (@cld276) March 19, 2018
That was 2012 and it was for a Democrat. In 2015, Facebook tightened their rules on apps, data sharing and more. Which means Trump had far less access to to personal data than Obama did.
Now though it is a problem, in 2012, it was a stroke of genius. The only difference, the winner wasn’t the one the media establishment wanted.