Cambridge-Facebook Fake Scandal Falls Apart

Like cars, shiny conspiracy theories lose their market value once you drive them off the lot.

The media latched on to The Guardian's Cambridge hysteria, but it's quickly falling apart.

In late September 2016, Cambridge and other data vendors were submitting bids to the Trump campaign. Then-candidate Trump’s campaign used Cambridge Analytica during the primaries and in the summer because it was never certain the Republican National Committee would be a willing, cooperative partner. Cambridge Analytica instead was a hedge against the RNC, in case it wouldn’t share its data.

The crucial decision was made in late September or early October when Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s digital guru on the 2016 campaign, decided to utilize just the RNC data for the general election and used nothing from that point from Cambridge Analytica or any other data vendor. The Trump campaign had tested the RNC data, and it proved to be vastly more accurate than Cambridge Analytica’s, and when it was clear the RNC would be a willing partner, Mr. Trump’s campaign was able to rely solely on the RNC.

So we've gone from the Facebook big data conspiracy rigged the election conspiracy theory to... Trump wasn't even using it to win the election.

And the Guardian's followup reveals that everyone was doing it.

Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.

...Parakilas does not know how many companies sought friends permission data before such access was terminated around mid-2014. However, he said he believes tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands of developers may have done so.

...While Kogan’s app only attracted around 270,000 users (most of whom were paid to take the quiz), the company was then able to exploit the friends permission feature to quickly amass data pertaining to more than 50 million Facebook users.

“Kogan’s app was one of the very last to have access to friend permissions,” Parakilas said, adding that many other similar apps had been harvesting similar quantities of data for years for commercial purposes. Academic research from 2010, based on an analysis of 1,800 Facebooks apps, concluded that around 11% of third-party developers requested data belonging to friends of users.

As I wrote earlier, this stuff is commonplace. 

Cambridge wasn't doing anything that everyone else wasn't doing. And Trump didn't even use the Cambridge data. This is a typical fake news scandal in which clickbait and journalistic illiteracy combines to turn a non-issue into front page news.

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