Trump consultants learned about voters from their Facebook profiles

by Ugnius Kiguolis - -

Facebook bans Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie, and Aleksandr Kogan

Trump consultants exploit facebook user data for presidential campaign

According to the latest news, Trump's consultants have used Facebook data to profile potential voters during his presidential campaign. Information of more than 50 million users on Facebook has been gathered and misused to not only learn about their preferences but also deliver political ads[1]

Dr. Aleksandr Kogan is a psychology professor at University of Cambridge and helped the consultants to gain data about the potential voters via personality prediction app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” This application claimed that the information is used for research by psychologists while A. Kogan provided it directly to Christopher Wylie[2].

Even though people who downloaded the app automatically gave their permission to collect various details, Facebook considers such actions as the violation of their Platform Policies and will no longer allow associated parties to use their services[3]:

We are suspending SCL/Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan from Facebook, pending further information.

The developed app mostly collected details about users' personality traits

Traditional analytics firms use previous voting records and purchase history to build the profile of the potential voter. However, this information cannot help to predict their behavior precisely. Likewise, the founder of Cambridge Analytica, C. Wylie contacted A. Kogan for help. 

According to the revealed email, Kogan's application revealed the following information about Facebook users in the beginning[4]:

  • openness;
  • conscientiousness;
  • extraversion;
  • agreeableness;
  • neuroticism;
  • life satisfaction;
  • IQ;
  • gender;
  • age;
  • political views (conservative/liberal/libertarian/uninvolved);
  • religion;
  • job;
  • university subject concentration;
  • self-disclosure;
  • fair-mindedness ;
  • self-monitoring.

Later, the “thisisyourdigitallife” app provided details about its users' locations, “likes,” and even data about their friends. By using such information, Trump's consultants could link people's preferences with approximate locations and have a broader view on how to reach its potential voters. 

In the official statement, Paul Grewal, VP & Deputy General Counsel says that Cambridge Analytics, C. Wylie, and A. Kogan confirmed that they had destroyed the gathered information[5]. However, if these claims are false, Facebook is ready to take legal actions:

We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information. We will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens. We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior.

Facebook has improved its security to protect the users

Social media platform has made several alterations during the past five years to ensure a safe experience for every Facebook user. This includes the changes in the verification process of the new apps for Facebook. Now, all applications requesting informative details about the user are addressed to App Review Process where developers are closely inspected and asked to confirm their intentions.

Additionally, Facebook reminds that users have the ability to choose which information they want to provide and which to secure:

Before you decide to use an app, you can review the permissions the developer is requesting and choose which information to share. You can manage or revoke those permissions at any time.

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About the author
Ugnius Kiguolis
Ugnius Kiguolis - The problem solver

Ugnius Kiguolis is the founder and editor-in-chief of UGetFix. He is a professional security specialist and malware analyst who has been working in IT industry for over 20 years.

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