How Facebook data aided Trump find voters

How Facebook data aided Trump find voters
Facebook says it is 'outraged' by misuse of data by Cambridge Analytica, the British firm at the centre of the scam.

Kogan's app with questionnaire used for psychological profiling of US citizens.



By AFP

Published: Wed 21 Mar 2018, 9:23 PM

Last updated: Wed 21 Mar 2018, 11:27 PM

It was one of hundreds of cute questionnaires that were shared widely on Facebook and other social media, like "Which Pokeman Are You?" and "What Are Your Most Used Words?"
This one, an app called "thisismydigitallife", was a personality quiz, asking questions about how outgoing a person is, how vengeful one can be, whether one finishes projects, worries a lot, likes art, or is talkative.
About 320,000 people took the quiz, designed by a man named Alexsandr Kogan.
Kogan was contracted to do it by a company called Cambridge Analytica, founded by US Republican supporters including Steve Bannon, who would become the strategist for Donald Trump.
Because Kogan's app was circulated via Facebook, it reaped far more than just the information on those who took the test. At the time, in 2015, such apps could scrape up all the personal details of not only the quiz-taker, but all their Facebook friends.
That ultimately became a horde of data on some 50 million Facebook users - their personal information, their likes, their places, their pictures, and their networks.
Marketers use such information to pitch cars, clothes, and vacations with targeted ads. It was used in earlier elections by candidates to identify potential supporters.
But for Kogan and Cambridge it was a much bigger goldmine. They used it for psychological profiling of US voters, creating a powerful database that helped carry Trump to victory in the 2016 presidential election. The data let the Trump campaign know more than perhaps anyone has ever known about Facebook users, creating targeted ads and messaging that could play on their individual biases, fears and loves - effectively creating a bond between them and the candidate.
The project was based on the work of a former Cambridge scientist, Michal Kosinski, who studies people based on what information they generate on line.
Kosinski and fellow researcher David Stillwell had for several years tapped into Facebook for psychometric profiling using their own personality test app, "myPersonality".
The app accumulated six million test results, along with users' Facebook profiles, and their friends' profiles, in a powerful research database.
In 2015 they published a study carrying the bold title: "Computer-based personality Judgments are more accurate than those made by humans."
They showed, for example, that they could divine a fairly accurate psychometric portrait of a person using only their Facebook "likes".
"Computers outpacing humans in personality Judgment presents significant opportunities and challenges in the areas of psychological assessment, marketing, and privacy," they wrote. Kosinski would not share the database with Kogan and Cambridge Analytica, reportedly knowing it would be used for a political campaign.


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