Trump Data Firm Stole Info From 50M Facebook Users

The New York Times reports:

As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem. The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge and worked there until late 2014, said of its leaders: “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.” “They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”

There MUCH more at the link.

  • bkmn

    It would be a shame if Robert Mercer goes to jail over this, a real shame.

  • Ninja0980

    Lock Robert and his equally horrible daughter up.

  • shellback

    I’m so glad I never did the facebook, nor did I ever see a reason for it. Whew!

    • AstroCat

      My mother is on it and she should not be – for many reasons. Whenever I see a story like the headline above, I immediately think of my mother being manipulated by Facebook and my Dad being manipulated by FoxNews.

      • The easily manipulated are going to be manipulated regardless of being on FB or not…unless they live under a rock somewhere and never, ever pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV.

        • AstroCat

          Of course. Social media and especially FB brings it that much closer to home.

  • Halou

    “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.”

    Yes. Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign were/are at war with the United States of America, with the Russian government as co-belligerents.

  • Moebym of the Returners

    Why am I feeling like Trump voters will not care much about the revelation that their Facebook data might’ve been stolen by CA since it was probably used to help their Glorious Leader win?

    EDIT: Well, that or they’ll think it’s fake news, of course.

    • Halou

      If a left-wing European firm were responsible for such a breach, the Trumpanzees would be swinging from the chandeliers, ‘ooking’ and flinging faeces for days.

    • AJ Drew

      EH, what’s being reported isn’t actually much of a personal breach. Concerning, yes! But… eh, basically ISP info (thus where, within a few miles, you physically are,) and if you’re active on FB, your ‘friends’ screen-names. Meh. Oh, I don’t like even that, but, it’s still just meh. Your PC and especially iPhone record and keep WAY WAY much MORE info than that.

      • canoebum

        Lots of us don’t have iPhones. Shocking, isn’t it?

      • Kenster999

        Yes to this, largely. Apparently they also tied together with data published from other common sources (income history, investments, magazine subscription, various memberships, etc). They used this to build the most detailed analysis of each individual person. They could then use Facebook advertising features to send out incredibly detailed ads, targeted to “white males 18-25 who like belong to the NRA, have all white relatives, no children, are enrolled in a community college, voted independent in the past, like hard rock, and respond to messaging with scary tones,” for example. Apparently they had about 5,000 different precise categories like this, and targeted each one with ads that would be most effective.

        I think part of the problem is that once people understand this, they’ll simply say, “So what? They didn’t change my mind. I would have voted for anyway.” And there’s probably a lot of truth to that. But this advertising certainly must have *some* effect (otherwise why do it?), and it’s hard to quantify. This will lead some people to ‘simplify’ and say that since we don’t know *exactly* how much effect it had then we shouldn’t worry about it. (I disagree with that conclusion, obviously.)

        • Scott Carpenter

          Particularly in political advertising, there’s also the inoculation effect, where they make people immune to common arguments against . Where before their friends/family/co-workers might have talked them out of it, that no longer happens.

    • lymis

      I actually read your comment as “used to help their Glutinous Leader win.”

      Not that I’d disagree with that phrasing, mind you.

  • PickyPecker

    OT: Damn, Joe’s crankin’ out the corruption news this morning! LOCK THEM ALL UP!
    Here’s a nice tune from the 1930’s to help lift spirits this St. Patrick’s day. Dance, anyone?

  • Max_1
    • pj


    • KP

      Do you know how many people won’t believe him based entirely on his appearance?

      • hudson11

        sad, but its true.

    • canoebum


  • Jim Maloney

    “Rules don’t matter for them.”

    Sounds familiar.

    • margaretpoa

      Rules have never mattered to Republicans…except when they imagine that Democrats are breaking them.

  • margaretpoa

    Copied and forwarded to my sister, who has been on my back to create a facebook account since t’s inception, I’ll never be a member of the collective and if this doesn’t adequately illustrate why, then nothing will ever suffice.

    • Max_1

      When other commenting boards went FB commenting I knew then that FB was going to be evil. Everyone centrally locates their life on social media is the precious reason I never liked it in the first place. I always said, “I don’t need to let everyone know what/where I am.” And this past election proved you and I right.

      • margaretpoa

        I stopped reading Huffington Post specifically because they started using Facebook exclusively to comment. Fuck that. I’m not going to make Zuckerberg fatter so I can tell people that their “sideboob” obsession is juvenile and shallow.

      • AJ Drew

        When HuffPo went there, I created a fake FB account just to f* the system, and it worked. But then it all went to full-on FB commenters and well, I’m back to being AJ and happy to be *here*.

      • canoebum

        The right to remain anonymous is being rapidly lost.

        • prixator

          This! Or just to be left alone and no one knows where you are. I’m probably wrong, but I think it started with answering machines and voice mail. When I was a kid, in our house, we were privileged to have two phones (not 2 lines, a phone upstairs and a phone downstairs – rotary dial, of course) and if someone called and no one was home (or wanted to answer), it would just ring and ring.

          Now, people can email. text and private message and they expect a reply quickly. And, if they actually phone someone, they are plenty annoyed if there is no voice mail.

      • kareemachan

        I listen sometimes to a morning radio show. One of their features is to read a FB conversation. Ye elder gods, some people will say *anything*. TMI, people!

      • lymis

        I agree, but for me it was even earlier, when it became clear that employers were demanding people’s Facebook accounts as part of their background checks. No thanks.

  • Halou

    Trump’s “victory” is at least in part the result of a criminal enterprise, one of it’s chief architects was given a non-job in the White House as a reward for their efforts.

    • canoebum

      Add to that criminal enterprise a 25 year relentless propaganda campaign against Hillary Clinton and you have the formula to put a Russian agent in the Oval Office.

  • Devon Rodriguez
  • safari

    Donald surrounds himself with people who don’t care about rules or laws.

    Those are for small people.

    • Kissmagrits

      Remember the execrable Leona Helmsley?
      “Only the little people pay taxes…..”

  • jimbo65

    It just amazes me how people are easily manipulated on social media by fear mongering.

    • safari

      Americans, and probably others on the planet, have been prepared by others for this for decades. From the early studies on advertising through the focus of the CIA during the height of the cold war, that information has been weaponized.

    • AstroCat

      …and because of that, I think it’s safe to say that a large portion of the population – maybe 35 to 40%, maybe higher – should not be using it, or better yet, don’t know how to handle it.

    • Wisterley

      I blame advertising.

  • PlutoAnimus

    The idea that all people are equal is anathema to Republicans.

    They cannot stand the idea that they are not superior to other people, and therefore, deserving of preferential treatment from all authorities. So they act like they are above the law.

    Such motherfucking creeps.

    • canoebum

      Not only superior, but entitled to run everything forever.

  • KP

    You know the story is of monumental proportions when the NYT publishes it on Saturday. No time for the Sunday shows to explore or verify any of it. AM Joy likely will be the only mentions of the story until next week. (if it survives the news cycle)

    • Wisterley

      Is that so true now that the Times is mostly online? I’ve been wondering if that’s true any more. For example, in the old days, most Broadway shows actually opened to the press on the Weds matinée before their official opening on Thursday eve, the prime spot of the week. So that the review would appear in the Friday paper which breadwinners were more likely to take home for the weekend so it would be seen by the little woman who would then nag her husband to get tickets. This was the thinking. I wonder if it still holds true and I wonder if their stories now disappear as swiftly as the used to.

    • Niblet58
      • ChrisMorley

        Get up to date: Today’s Guardian

        The Cambridge Analytica Files
        ‘I created Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower

        For more than a year we’ve been investigating Cambridge Analytica and its links to the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK and Team Trump in the US presidential election. Now, 28-year-old Christopher Wylie goes on the record to discuss his role in hijacking the profiles of millions of Facebook users in order to target the US electorate

        by Carole Cadwalladr

        bonus Christopher Wylie is a cute Canadian gay geek

  • margaretpoa

    Let’s be clear, facebook’s objection is based not only on their possible liability but also on the fact that they didn’t get paid for that information.

    • Halou

      Facebook’s contempt for the rules is evident in their disregard for the orders of the British government regarding Facebook’s role in the Brexit referendum, just another election in which Cambridge Analytica played it’s dirty hand.

      • margaretpoa

        They want the people divided among ourselves so we’re less of a threat to their wealth and power.

        • Barry William Teske


  • No sympathy for FB users. Sorry, but it has been clear for a LONG time now that it’s not trustworthy in any way. Believe it or not? There are other places and tech one can use to communicate and exchange cat pics. 🐱

    • Halou

      I’d say the same of any other “too big to fail” mega-corporation especially in anything where technology development is concerned. Walmart. Amazon. Apple. Google, Microsoft. Etc…

      They all like to hoodwink us with tales of the humble origins of their founders as if that makes them eternally perfect reflections of the once noble intentions of their founders. Whoever Mark Zuckerberg was in 2004 he is not that same person today.

      • worstcultever

        In the digital age it now takes only 10 years, 20 tops, for useful things/corps to become world-destroying robber barons with more power than any robber barons in the history of the world. We’ve barely begun to even open our eyes to it.

        (Not to mention our utter American complacency – wow, Pooty weaponized all this shit and now we have a blithering idiot russian agent president, srsly? – um, duh, golly, how’d that happen?)

      • Marc: The Social Gadfly

        Don’t kid yourself. He’s exactly the same.

    • “Believe it or not? There are other places and tech one can use to communicate and exchange cat pics.”

      Yes, it’s called JMG

  • Hank

    Hmmm…. Can ALL FaceBook members whose data was used ILLEGALLY form a Class Action Suit against FaceBook AND Cambridge ANALytica???

  • worstcultever

    Mercer nazis, you’re goin’ down.

    Brad Parscale, you too. Feel that butt-clench fear? Good.

    Facebook, your utter discrediting continues apace.

  • JWC

    The cesspool widens

  • Marc: The Social Gadfly

    You can bet dollars to donuts, Cambridge Analytica will now go after the information of our well-organized children using these social media platforms. It’s up to us to do something to protect them from that. Will we?

    • SoCalGal20

      Facebook isn’t as popular with Gen Z and younger Millenials. They prefer platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

      • Marc: The Social Gadfly

        Agreed. And how secure are they from this kind of intrusiveness?

        • SoCalGal20

          I have no idea but as the MSD kids have shown, I also think they’re a bit more savvy and cynical about not just buying everything you see on social media.

          The problem comes when low info people only get their “news” from the wingnut articles Aunt Mary sends them on Facebook and crap like that. I’ve always thought at least somewhat critically and been skeptical of rando “news” on the internet. Give me a source, something reliable. I don’t believe it just because it’s posted on Facebook or it’s been tweeted out a bajillion times or turned into a meme. Unfortunately that’s not the case with a lot of people.

      • AJ Drew

        For 20-somethings, FB, and Instagram, and SnapChat is yesterday. Even texting is too old-school now. Next up… ? Apple and MS battling for that. Cripes, I’m feeling so old ‘cuz I’d just like hear a voice or have a visit, or good whatever, get a letter. Yeah, not gonna happen, but thinking back, did I ever send my grandma a letter? Hmm. Life goes on…

      • Danieruw

        I believe Instagram is owned by FB.

    • Barry William Teske

      We all will.
      For the children.
      I will leave it at that.

  • Barry William Teske

    You can run.
    But you will no longer be allowed to hide Cambridge Analytica.
    Us Canadians now know who you are, and where you do your dirty business from.
    You might want to…oh too late.

  • David Gervais

    Cambridge Analytica: when good software goes bad…

  • Acronym Jim

    …”identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior.”

    Which is exactly what the Russian government is accused of doing. I suspect we are looking at a web that makes this one look like the work of amateurs.

  • boobert

    We had our taxes done yesterday. Hubby asked the accountant if our data was safe on the computer. He said, ” they can hack the electrical grid, why would they want your tax returns ?” LOL

  • unsavedheathen

    Please, let’s not deny credit to Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah. She sits on the Cambridge board and her hands are as dirty as her father’s. A proud and determined fascist in her own right.

    Time’s up.

  • Richard B

    Though their actions were unethical, but did Cambridge Analytica break any laws?
    If they did, they should be prosecuted and sanctioned.

    • lymis

      And the laws should be put in place for the future, if they weren’t.

  • Larry Hankamer

    Robert and Rebekah Mercer…Lock ’em up!

  • kareemachan

    This is why I don’t have a FB account.

  • Jefe5084

    The Mercers, Kochs, and other elitist shitheads are traitors. Undermine everything to satisfy their selfishness.

  • Jean-Marc in Canada

    Oligarchs? Stealing? Je suis en choque, vraiment! Bien non, pas du tout.

  • Clive Johnson

    ““Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.””

    In other words, they’re extremists and fanatics.

    We’ve already known this to be true with anti-abortion zealots, most of whom would be perfectly happy dragging the country into the developmental level of a poor nation if only they could stop abortion.

    What’s driving scumbags like Mercer?

    (From various sources):
    -He’s a gold standard crank
    -He supported Brexit
    -He wants to overturn environmental laws
    -He supports the death penalty
    -He’s donated at least $10 million to breitbart, and also to the Heritage Foundation and the libertarian Cato Institute
    -Was claimed to be the largest single donor in the 2016 presidential campaign
    -First choice was Ted Cruz
    -Believes that Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a mistake. (I.e., he’s a raging bigot.)
    -“In 2017, David Magerman, a former Renaissance employee, alleged in a lawsuit that Mercer had said that African Americans were economically better off before the civil rights movement, that white racists no longer existed in the United States, and that the only racists remaining were black racists.” [wikipedia]
    -Has one of the largest machine gun collections in the country.

  • RainbowPhoenix

    And people wonder why I’m not on Facebook.

  • Kevin Andrews

    To Hell with imprisoning creatures as demonstrated here from the Mercers to the Koch Brothers. Bring the Treason Charges and just execute the scum of the Earth.

  • Kevin Andrews
  • Max_1

    A thread about a lawsuit and the interview…

  • LesbianTippingHabits

    I would say that the Democratic Party needs to learn from this.

    Step 1: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) needs to announce that she will not seek a leadership position in the next Congress, if re-elected.

    • Marlin

      shut up

  • Marlin

    FB has been actively working with CA – not just a ‘data breach”.

  • ClevelandJim

    The Guardian has an excellent piece on Cambridge Analytics whistleblower Wylie, who is gay.

    • ChrisMorley

      Excellent link
      You so need UK investigative journalists to keep digging into the fetid political mindbending swamp that is Mercers / Bannon / Facebook / Cambridge Analytica.

      Carole Cadwalladr has been researching and writing about this for yonks.

      Christopher Wylie is now my new fav gay geek.

      • ClevelandJim

        I love The Guardian, it’s my go-to site in the morning to find out what’s going on in real news. Cadwalladr’s writing is so clear on things that could be hella confusing and dry.

        It’s such good news that Wylie has an absolute SHIT TON of documenation (emails, receipts, papers) laying out each step of exactly what went down. God bless those gay, ADHD Canadians!

      • John30013

        I hope he keeps himself safe, in light of what’s been happening in England to Russian ex-pats who cross Putin.

  • Edmund Allin

    This is scandalous, but then so is much of the news out of newly-drained Washington.

  • JAX

    If Mercer is ever a character in a film, Ryan Reynolds should play him.

  • UiscePreston

    Facebook is a cesspool. Of course, it’s Big Brother business model attracts other loathsome players out to monitor and manipulate the addle-pated masses.