Cambridge Analytica – Bogey of the Week, by Sheldon Richman

Hillary Clinton is Ahab looking for the white whale of an excuse for her defeat in the 2016 election. Now it’s Cambridge Analytica. From Sheldon Richman at

The panic over Cambridge Analytica looks like an acknowledgment that Russiagate is a losing horse.

CA is the latest excuse for Hillary Clinton’s ignominious loss to Donald Trump, following “the Russians” and former FBI Director James Comey. Since those others haven’t exactly carried the day – still no evidence given against Russia and plenty of unflattering stuff came out about Trump when Comey was grandstanding – it must have been time for a new tack. CA’s psychographic microtargeting appeared to fill the bill.

Here’s the story: CA (with billionaire Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon behind it) is said to have used profile data “harvested” from Facebook – that’s right: stuff people revealed about themselves – to predict what people would do when exposed to certain election-related material online. It was all so simple: Profiling data. Prediction. Manipulation. Trump Victory. Next stop the White House.

Swallowing the braggadocio of CA’s principals – unrelated, of course, to their hunt for new clients – people who refuse to believe Trump could possibly have won the election legitimately are screeching that CA’s diabolical methods likely determined the decisive narrow pro-Trump margins in the industrial northern swing states.

Any reasonable person would be skeptical. CA could really predict the behavior of strangers under various calibrated stimuli? Based on what they “liked” on Facebook and other personal tidbits they’ve disclosed?

I don’t know about you, but I “like” posts for any of several reasons: I may agree with the content, or appreciate the posting of a link however much I abhorred the message, or want to keep up with the ensuing discussion. The list could go on. The point is that trying to predict my reaction to ads or apparent news stories on the basis of my “likes” seems like a questionable use of time and money. At the very least, all kinds of problems plague the move from data collection to prediction to manipulation. We’re dealing with human beings, for heaven sakes. (See “Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook Data Abuse Shouldn’t Get Credit For Trump.”)

To continue reading: Cambridge Analytica – Bogey of the Week


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