Recently, Netflix has released a documentary entitled “The great hack”. The first time I read the title, the thought that came to my mind are computer wizards looking through our webcam spying on us. But it’s not. Are you curious about how United States President Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election? We have all the answers in these documentary that we will soon find out.
The film starts with Professor David Carroll, a teacher of Digital Media and Developing apps asking question in his class that says “Who has seen an advertisement that has convinced you that your microphone is listening to your conversations?” and everyone in the class raised their hands, if I were there I will also raise my hand. Professor David Carroll explained that our behavior is being accurately predicted, so the ads that seems to be correct are more likely to be evidence that the targeting works and it predicts our behavior.
Professor David narrates the documentary and gave us a quick overview of the role of technology in our lives. Have you ever wondered where all the data from our online activities go are? And, all that likes and hearts from facebook and Instagram doesn’t just disappear, it was being collected, linked to your digital identity. All of us has a digital traces and these traces are being mined by rich technology companies. These documentary will teach you the importance of reading the terms and conditions before installing a specific app.
President Trumps digital campaign was named Project Alamo wherein the people from Facebook, Youtube and Google works together to distribute ads to voters. Another tech company name Cambridge Analytica was also involved in project Alamo, and as described in the film, they are the brain of the data. Now David wants to collect this mined data by these company because basically data rights is human rights. He owns this data and he wanted Cambridge Analytica to give this to him.
Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, explained how thousands of American voters participated in a survey to form a model of 5,000 data points that they can use to predict the personality of every adult in the United States, this personality drives their behavior and their behavior influences how they vote, and this is how they target the people with video content. This is how they work on Trump campaign, and as we all know, it was a success.
The film introduced us to Carole Cadwalladr an Investigative Journalist from The Guardian who is working on an investigation about Cambridge Analytica and its connection to Brexit campaign who wants to leave the European Union. Carole Cadwalladr explained the links between Trump, Brexit and Cambridge Analytica. During her investigation she met Cris Wiley a Data Scientist and an ex-employee of Cambridge Analytica. Cris Wiley mentioned in the interview that Cambridge analytica is a Propaganda Machine. He explained how apps on facebook were given special permission to harvest data form the person who uses the app and how this will go to the entire friend network and pull out all the friend’s data as well. This will then give them the privilege to pull out your data even your private messages. This will then be used to build a psychological profile of each voter in US. So basically, people have no idea that their data was being taken from them. According to Cris Wiley this is an unethical experiment.
Another ex-employee, former Director of Business Development for Cambridge Analytica Brittany Kaiser is willing to spill the beans, saying she have evidence that Brexit Campaign and Trump campaign is conducted illegally. Paul Hidler, a Political Technologist who writes about how data is being used and abused, decided to help Brittany Kaiser. One of the information that Kaiser provided is how the personality models did not target all the American voters equally but to target those whose mind they thought could be changed which they called the “Persuadables”. The one that mattered to them are those from Swing States, this States will then be broken down into precint and each persuadables in a specific precint will be the target and will then be turned red (Republicans) instead of blue (Democrats), meaning they will turn their votes to Republicans instead of the Democrats. The team from Cambridge Analytica will create a personalized content to trigger those people with every platform like vlogs, articles, websites and ads until these persuadables will see the world the way the Cambridge Analytica wanted them to, until they voted for their candidate.
“You send your data out. It gets analyzed, and it comes back at you as target messaging to change your behavior.” A statement said by Britanny Kaiser.
As the story goes by, we’ve learned more about how the Company of Cambridge Analytica tricked Americans into turning their votes for the Republicans or for Donald Trump.
Going back to Carole Cadwalladr’s investigation about Brexit campaign, she received a letter saying Cambridge Analytica never worked for the Leave campaign (Leave.EU which is the Brexit Campaign), but according to Leave.EU website, it says that they hired Cambridge Analytica. There are also statements from Nix saying that they worked for Leave.EU. This shows that Nix the CEO of Cambridge Analytica denied working with Brexit Campaign.
One of the big tech company involved here is Facebook, the time where Mark Zuckerberg testify to the Congress. The Facebook Founder and CEO was then questioned if Facebook employees were involved in Trump Campaign worked with Cambridge Analytica to refine tactics for project Alamo. This was then denied by Mr. Zuckerberg making Kaiser and David surprised that the allegations were being denied. Mark Zuckerberg says he didn’t know that Facebook employees were involved with Cambridge Analytica, although he says that they helped out with Trump Campaign in sales support in the same way that they did with other campaigns. Zuckerberg added that he can get the Facebook team to do an investigation about the issue.
Cambridge Analytica Spokesperson came to Cambridge Analytica’s defense saying that all the allegations are ill-informed and inaccurate speculation. One of the interviews Nix was asked if he feels that he skewed the democracy, Nix answered, by providing campaign services to a candidate who’d been fairly nominated as the Republican representative of the United States, he answered with a question, “How is that possible?” as if saying that what they did is legal. But as David said, Data rights are human rigts.
Brittany Kaiser was looking through her computer and she suddenly found out that she have all her copy of schedule in her calendar. All of her schedules when she’s still a part of Cambridge Analytica, all of the meetings was their way back 2015. She realized how much proof she had. She looked through her hard drive and she found the list of main sources of data in which Facebook is also in that list. These are the evidence she can use to prove that Cambridge Analytica did not delete the data they used from Facebook.
Brittany Kaiser was then went to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to present evidence. She was asked if the Facebook data that Cambridge Analytica was deleted since they had an agreement that all Facebook data must be deleted, Kaiser confessed that the Facebook data sets was use still being used for their modelling. Therefore the Facebook data was not deleted. Kaiser was asked about what the legislators should do to protect people’s data, Kaiser answered them by saying that the people should own their data like their property. Just before the session ended they announced that Alexander Nix would not be able to give evidence to the committee and he was given an information notice and subject to criminal investigation.
After the preceding, Kaiser seemed happy getting it all out of her system. She also did an interview after the preceding, answering all sorts of questions being asked to her, she even shared to the interview that Nix texted him saying that she looked tough and did a really great job. The interviewer asked if she would reply but Kaiser said she won’t.
Getting back to the investigation of Carole Cadwalladr, she provided a statement about Kaiser’s proceeding. She also explains the methodology of Cambridge Analytica and how they used it in America and Britain.
After that they show an undercover footage of a private meeting of Nix and there they talked about how they created the “Defeat Crooked Hillary” article and spread it out to the internet. This undercover video was aired on news and it was the end of Cambridge Analytica. The company filed a bankruptcy in the US and UK.
Accordig to Roger Mcnamee an early Facebook investor says that Facebook is designed to monopolize attention and he compared it to gambling in casino that plays with people and to manipulate them. Roger Mcnamee met Brittany Kaiser and told her how facebook was killing democracy and he just can’t stand it.
Brittany Kaiser tell her side of the story about why she decided to work for Cambridge Analytica when she previously worked with Obama campaign and Hillary. Her life falls apart by then, losing their family home and his father had a brain surgery. Therefore she decided to work for the one that will pay for her.
Alexander Nix showed up in the Committee for his proceedings about the scandal that Cambridge Analytica is facing. Alexander Nix was burned with many questions by the committee. They also asked about the time when Cambridge Analytica asked Julian Assange (the owner of wikileaks.com) to give them copies of Hillary Clinton’s email, which is confirmed by Brittany Kaiser that she did asked for the copy and paid them bitcoin for that. Alexander Nix also confirmed that but he defended himself by saying that journalists and political consultant would do the same thing.
While Brittany Kaiser was watching the proceeding, Carrol Cadwalladr published a news about the meeting of Cambridge Analytica to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.
Another interesting thing that happened during Nix’s proceeding was when he was asked if he felt victimized by the situation, he answered that they were the guys who were perceived to have contributed to the Trump campaign and were wrongly accredited with being the architects of Brexit and as a result of the polarizing nature of those two political campaigns, the global liberal media took umbrage and decided to put Cambridge Analytica in their crosshairs and launch a coordinated attack on the company to destroy their reputation and their business. While hearing the statement of Alexander Nix it kinda make me feel sad for him thinking that he would go through all of this because of politics. But then we never know if he’s lying or not, right?
Another statement from Carole Cadwalladr, she shared the unpublished story that they have been working on regarding all the investigation about US and Britain that all points out that the election laws are not fit for purpose. We can’t have fair elections because of facebook. Cadwalladr explained how facebook disseminated fake news in Brazil in order to make a politician elected in the position and provided more examples of how facebook became a politician’s tool for their own purpose. She also stated that ‘Black Lives Matter’ memes was created by Russian Inteligence at the same time created ‘Blue Lives Matter’ that results in hate and made the country turn against each other and dividing them.
After the issue of Cambridge Analytica, Brittany Kaiser was asked to participate in a series of investigations in US government including Mueller’s case and she is willing to cooperate in all of that in order to correct all her mistakes.
At the near end of documentation ends with David’s narration saying that the Cambridge Analytica case is behind him already, he didn’t get his data back, but the battle continues.
Carole Cadwalladr gave a TED talk regarding what she learned during her investigation. She talked about how technology should be connecting people but driving us apart.
Watching ‘The Great Hack’ was an eye opener. It will give you a clearer picture of how giant tech companies uses their platform to cheat on us. But it’s not about hating this platform it’s about using it smartly, social media is for connection and not for deception. Data rights, are human rights and this should not be used against us.
I think the world needs more of people like Brittany Kaiser, Professor David Carroll and Carole Cadwalladr. Brittany Kaiser is a person who is brave enough to admit her wrong doings and willingly cooperated in everything just so she can correct it. Professor David Carroll never stops to fight for his Data rights which is also our human rights in order to make people aware the importance of this to every one of us. Carole Cadwalladr is courageous to go through the investigation and expose the real villains on the story, she never hesitated to publish her stories even if she knew that there will be a lot of threats that she will receive, but at the end, the truth still prevails.
There are a lot of things that was shown in this documentary that is full of details that you just can’t resist to find out what will happen next. Also this is interesting because it involves Facebook and their platform was used by the villains. As you follow along the story you will found out how messed up America is and other countries in the world. I learned the value of my data because of this documentary.
I think the documentary shows how politicians badly wanted to win elections. They will do unethical actions in order for them to have the power that they want. I wonder what are the things they gain beside from the position and power? Their role is to serve the people and the country and I don’t think manipulating their vote is a good idea in order to gain the people’s trust, it will actually make them more unworthy to hold their position in politics. Whether a liberal or a republican, all Americans deserve a leader who is worthy to serve the country.