Facebook, Cambridge Analytics and Academic World

The academic at the centre of the Facebook data scandal has said the social network is in full-on “PR crisis mode”.

Aleksandr Kogan’s remarks came as he faced a grilling over his role from MPs.

The social network was fully aware that its platform “was being mined by thousands of others”, he said.

He also rubbished Cambridge Analytica boss Alexander Nix’s initial claims that it had not received data from him.

“That is a fabrication,” he said.

In a later clarification, Cambridge Analytica did admit that it had licensed data from the firm set up by Dr Kogan, although denied that the information was used in the US elections.

At a press conference held after Dr Kogan’s appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Cambridge Analytica spokesman Clarence Mitchell said the company was “no Bond villain”.

“Data analysis is commonly used for better targeting and is perfectly legitimate. It is not some Bond-like brainwashing as has been portrayed by some.”

Money-making exercise?

Dr Kogan was questioned by MPs about his role in the data harvesting row.

He revealed that he had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Facebook, which prevented him from revealing some details about his relationship with the tech giant to the MPs.

The Cambridge academic has become a central figure in the debate over whether the personal information of millions of Facebook users was used in US elections without their consent.

During the committee hearing, he explained that he was approached by SCL – the parent firm of Cambridge Analytica – in spring 2014 about monetising an app he had developed at the University of Cambridge’s Psychology Department.

He set up a commercial entity – Global Science Research – and later developed the personality quiz My Digital Life for SCL, using a market research firm to recruit 200,000 people to take part.

At the time, the social network’s terms and conditions – which have since been changed – allowed developers to cull the details of all of these people’s friends as well.

“Initially the conversations with SCL were about consulting services, survey designs and the interest in Facebook data grew out of that,” he said.

MPs grilled him on the relationship with business partner Joseph Chancellor, with whom he set up GSR and who is now employed by Facebook.

“Facebook has called your company a scam and a fraud. Is it not odd that they employ someone who by their admission has violated the platform’s policies?” asked committee chairman Damian Collins.

“I don’t believe that they actually believe this. They know that their platform is being mined left and right by thousands of others,” Dr Kogan replied.

“It is convenient to point the finger at my firm and call it a rogue agency,” he added.

He was asked whether the firm had been set up as a money-making exercise and replied that it had only received £230,000 in total.

Initial payments of between £600,000 and £800,000 from SCL were used to pay those who agreed to take the quiz, he said.

In written evidence presented ahead of the committee, Dr Kogan pointed out that the personality scores provided to Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm SCL were “highly inaccurate”.

“We estimate that we were right about all five traits for about 1% of the people.”

He added that the data would not have been useful for micro-targeting ads on Facebook.

Not brainwashing

Alexander Nix
Image captionCambridge Analytica’s suspended chief executive Alexander Nix has postponed another appearance before the DCMS committee

Following his appearance, Cambridge Analytica broke its silence on the row with a press conference held in London.

Spokesman Clarence Mitchell agreed that the data Dr Kogan had provided to the company had been “virtually useless”.

“It was only just above random guessing in statistical terms,” he said.

He reiterated that the data had not been used in the US presidential campaign and that while Cambridge Analytica had pitched for work to both Vote Leave and Remain, it had undertaken no work for either side in the EU referendum campaign.

He said the results of an independent inquiry into the company were due imminently.

When questioned about the notable absence of currently suspended Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix, Mr Mitchell said he was “not here to speak for him”.

But he defended Mr Nix’s decision to “postpone” an appearance in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

“He is keen and willing to speak to the DCMS committee but has been advised that he should not do so while an independent inquiry is ongoing.”

On Thursday, Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, will be questioned by the committee.

Hits: 3

Inspiration from Tobias “Still in the Bank” and “Looking for Sensation”

Had the very good fortune to meet Tobias a couple of years ago at an IT Investment exhibition. Only later did I discover the journey he had made,  why he was “Still in the bank”, the title of the collection is “Looking for Sensation” and was started as part of his rehabilitation after suffering a stroke. I found his story so inspiring that I asked him to share it with others. And this is it, truly mesmerising and wonderful! Both the songs and the story. I believe it is available through Spotify, and from his domain name  based on reversing his Christian name, Tobias=Saibot so we have http://www.saibotmusic.se.  Enjoy!

Tobias’s article is hosted on my web site https://gobaug.org where you will see some of the issues I have been concerned with. Unlike Tobias I can’t sing a note, had suffered a serious car accident that put me in a wheelchair, but when the UK Government made its Brexit referendum decision, I got so angry, almost jumped out of the wheelchair, and set about fighting Brexit and raising my issues, covering quite a diverse area. Pure self-indulgence but with a semi-serious purpose. (more…)

Hits: 81

Facebook – TIME TO STOP FB SCANDALS – enough is enough

First, an apology from FB after a few days! This raises crucial questions. Why so long? Doesn’t FB know what its own system is doing?? Or did they know, but had to figure out what their “optimal” response could and should be? Either which way, it does not look too good at all IMHO whichever way you look at it, even with the best will in the world!

Should FB’s apology be accepted and/or should there be some strong and effectively punitive, financial penalties that “encourage” FB to understand that user rights and use of user data should not be abused and violated? In his statement MZ said “The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago”. Hardly confidence enhancing since if true, how come this has happened right now? Hardly logical! Someone should go back to the school bench.

Possibly financial sanctions should also be designed to ensure that if anything similar ever happens again, FB knows what the outcome should, could, and would be. And for that to happen, effective measures need to be taken now rather than at some indefinite time and place in the world of “tomorrow”.

Otherwise, repetitions will undoubtedly recur. Profits are too great for FB to resist temptation.

Merely accepting a late and painless apology from FB does not per se seem to be a sufficient remedy. Substantial effort should be put into ensuring that FB plays by the rules (including its own) such that income gained in any given country should be assessed for tax and paid as tax revenues in that country, and not just be shifted to and declared in countries with the lowest possible corporate tax rates in or outside the EU.

Real penalties are called for that could at least indirectly benefit users who have had their privacy violated in recent years.
In addition, if FB wishes to stay in business, it should clarify and streamline its reporting systems so that users can monitor and “guide” FB to do what is right. A couple of months ago fearing some Brexiteer gangsters I had to report a physically threatening post I received to FB, and then received a typically cryptic FB response, and secondly worse still zero response to my request for clarification from FB.

An apology alone is totally insufficient. It would mean we accept from FB something like “We are terribly sorry we violated your privacy and did not follow our own terms and conditions. We did not mean to do this, we hope you will understand, our mission is to serve you to the best of our ability”. And not just to make enormous profits for our founders and shareholders. Or is FB, like some banks, too big to fail.
If it is close to that, then maybe that is all the more reason to make sanctions for the current failure as punitive as legally possible. So there would be little doubt about the applicability of future sanctions.
So “Never_Ever_Again” could be the buzz phrase to shout for a “call to effective action” before it is too late! And if this weakens FB, so be it, It is not undeserved. Maybe it is worth the price even though many may still think of FB as the world’s social media platform. God, China or Russia, please help us; if we can’t help ourselves!

Hits: 16

BREAKING NEWS CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA 20 MARCH 2018

Cambridge Analytica to be inspected under a warrant to be taken out by the UK Government’s information commissioner, following a report from Channel 4 News in the UK that personal data of 50 million Facebook members may have been used to influence the US presidential election in 2016.

Furthermore Channel 4 News had film footage suggesting Cambridge Analytica could use honey traps and “potentially bribery to discredit politicians”..

CA, of course, denies these charges. Hence the application for a warrant

The CEO of CA, Alexander Nix, responding to a question on “deep digging” is reported to have said “Oh, we do a lot more than that”. So what might he have had in mind? Any comments dear readers! But maybe not good to put too many words into his mouth at the same time, this could induce unhealthy choking.

We believe this may well be the very thin edge of a much broader wedge that will snowball, and grow, and grow, , so let’s keep tuned in to see what happens in the coming weeks and months! Links to Russia’s cyber activities.in recent past cannot be ruled out.

Original article from the BBC at the following link:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-43465700?SThisFB

Further discussion forthcoming at https://gobaug.org

Hits: 20

Not just the poisoning case, but also the increasing vulnerability of other Russian oligarchs resident in the UK

The “tit-for-tat” between Russa and the UK seems to be expanding as further investigations will be made into the deaths of Russian citizens in the UK, and to what extent this may be due to Russian intervention. So far the UK position has been supported by Germany, France, and the matter will also be raised in the UN security council.

Hits: 9

Copy of Email Feb 18 to HH Chefen Malin.Stockhaus-Keilor

From: – brian r. turner- <brt@intcom.se>To: “Stockhaus Keilor, Malin” <Malin.Stockhaus-Keilor@huddinge.se>
Date: Friday, February 23, 2018, 11:51:21 PM
Subject: Feb 23 Brian Turner Info

Summary

Essentially 2 proposals
a) Parents/Group leader responsible for their children, who should use the nappy facilities provided by (more…)

Hits: 58