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Patrick Ruffini @PatrickRuffini
, 15 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
Some perspective on this Guardian/NYT Cambridge Analytica Story.…
This isn’t a “data breach.” And the underlying data gathered isn’t that scary.

It was completely legal to collect under Facebook API rules through 2014 (2015 if you count the sunset period)
Numerous campaign Facebook apps in the 2012-14 period collected data about Facebook friends. The Obama campaign called it targeted sharing.
Where CA screwed up was in transferring the data from an academic. This was a clear no-no under Facebook’s platform policies. Had they simply collected the data themselves, they wouldn’t have had a problem.
In theory, these apps were not supposed to make use of friends data globally (only as part of the individual friend’s UX) but numerous apps did show aggregate data about friends of friends.
In fact, the Obama campaign ran and publicly reported analytics about “friends of friends” through its apps — reporting that only 50% of millennials’ friends were contactable via phone but something like 90% were via Facebook
Off a base off 1M authorized accounts, they estimated they could contact 98% of the US Facebook population via friends. That’s only knowable if you have the IDs in your database.
What was creepy and scary when Trump did it (actually no, because they didn’t use the data) was heralded as an amazing tech innovation when Obama did it — which it was
Facebook shut this down in 2014, citing user feedback. More likely, they realized it was possible for third party developers to build massive microtargeting databases this way, competing with their business model.
And for good reason. Partisanship models based on Facebook page like data are as reliable (if not more reliable) than voter files.
But you don’t really need Facebook data to replace voter file data (which is good). You need it to replace third party commercial data (which isn’t that good, because of privacy worries) = $$$
Needless to say, this was problematic for Facebook.
Needless to say, you shouldn’t be particularly concerned about this. Because the psychographic use case is and was pretty weak sauce. Ultimately you need offline commercial databases to make predictions about the entire population...
And these offline variables don’t have any predictive power when predicting personality traits — which in and of themselves are not even that useful to know for political persuasion
To recap: This wasn’t that controversial when it was happening. Facebook shut it down in 2014, partly for privacy reasons, but more for commercial reasons. It’s only scary ex post facto with the words “Trump” and “Russia” applied.
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