Monday, May 20, 2019
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The dirty political data economy you don’t know about — even though you are...

It is being bought, sold, and potentially stolen with the direct aim of manipulating you – from the Weather Channel selling your geo-located data to a political advertising companies matching voter registration records to Facebook profiles, or political candidates tricking you into giving up your personal information through “surveys.” In Missouri, for example, a statewide voter list can be purchased for $35. What can then be done with this data? All of a sudden a company can directly target you on Facebook, knowing your name, home address, birthday and political affiliation. So the supposedly innocuous political ads you are seeing on Facebook are being targeted directly at you, personally. We used to believe that Facebook advertising just went out to groups of people with set interests, but that is simply not the case. For example, if you go to Donald Trump’s Facebook page, on its face, it looks pretty similar to anyone else’s, but if you scroll down on the left and click the button “Info and Ads,” it tells a very different story. We are able to see the advertisements that President Trump’s campaign is running and every single one of them directs you to a “survey” or “petition.” What does it ask for? It isn’t asking you to donate – but you are doing so nonetheless, unknowingly giving up your data, a much more valuable resource. Now, come the next election, you can be hand-fed advertising directly to your email, social media and your home. Not only can President Trump’s campaign send you this advertising, but so can the companies that he chooses to sell your data too.

Manafort Accused of Sharing Trump Polling Data With Russian Associate

Carlo Allegri/Reuters WASHINGTON — As a top official in President Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort shared political polling data with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday. The document also revealed that during the campaign, Mr. Manafort and his Russian associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, discussed a plan for peace in Ukraine. Prosecutors and the news media have already documented a string of encounters between Russian operatives and Trump campaign associates dating from the early months of Mr. Trump’s bid for the presidency, including the now-famous meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person. The oligarchs had financed Russian-aligned Ukrainian political parties that had hired Mr. Manafort as a political consultant. The surprise disclosures about Mr. Manafort were the latest in two years of steady revelations about contacts between associates of Mr. Trump’s and Russian officials or operatives. The two men continued working together over the next three years as Mr. Manafort’s financial troubles grew and investigators began to investigate a fraud scheme that eventually led to his conviction for 10 felonies. In August 2016, apparently just before Mr. Manafort was fired from the Trump campaign, he and Mr. Kilimnik met to discuss a plan for Ukraine that seemed to further Russia’s interests. In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Artemenko said that investigators working for Mr. Mueller had questioned him extensively about his efforts to promote that plan. The prosecutors could also decide to file new charges against Mr. Manafort for lying to them, but apparently they do not plan to do so, according to Tuesday’s filing.

Data watchdog investigates ‘bin Chequers’ email campaign

A secretive group that has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds encouraging voters to back a hard Brexit is being investigated by Britain’s data watchdog, it has emerged. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has now confirmed it is examining whether an email campaign by Mainstream Network, organised to lobby MPs to “bin Chequers”, may have breached new GDPR rules governing personal data.It follows the decision by the commissioner to fine the Brexit campaign group Leave.EU and an insurance company owned by Brexit-backer Arron Banks over breaches of data laws. The organisers and funders of Mainstream Network remain anonymous, while there are no details on its website. As well as using ads and its website to push its anti-Chequers message, Mainstream Network has also targeted social media users with Facebook ads, encouraging them to lobby their MP to oppose May’s deal and support a total break with the EU. “So any half-hearted in-out deal would be the worst of any world: we would be in the EU in all but name, without the right to set our own laws or regulations, and unable to influence the 27 other member states.” Clicking on one of the ads calls up a link to the user’s constituency and MP’s name. Its evidence was published by the Commons Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) select committee, as part of its inquiry into “fake news”. The campaign’s website continues to publish news stories supportive of Brexit. Facebook has so far declined to reveal any details about what it knows about the group. It has recently tightened rules around political ads. Mike Harris, the chief executive of the 89up agency that revealed details of the group, said: “Even after our report to parliament’s DCMS select committee, raising concerns Mainstream Network may have been acting illegally, their Facebook page is still online and the website continues to be updated with no further information on who is behind this site.

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia shares edge higher, sterling slugged by UK politics

* Sterling hit as two UK ministers resign over Brexit * Nikkei leads Asia shares higher in early trade * Balanced U.S. jobs data suggest Fed can stay gradual on hikes By Wayne Cole SYDNEY, July 9 (Reuters) - Asian share markets crept higher on Monday following favourable U.S. jobs data, while sterling slipped after two members of the British government resigned over Brexit and put the future of Prime Minister Theresa May in doubt. The pound peeled off around a third of a U.S. cent to $1.3292 in early trading as news broke British Brexit Secretary David Davis and Brexit Minister Steven Baker had resigned. The loss came just two days after a meeting at May’s Chequers country residence supposedly sealed a cabinet deal on Brexit and underlines the deep divisions in her ruling Conservative Party over the departure from the EU. Sentiment in other markets was mostly positive after Friday’s U.S. payrolls report showed tame wages and more people looking for work. “The combination of rising employment and increased labour force participation suggests healthy but not tightening labour market conditions in June, something that will allow the Fed to continue to hike rates at a gradual pace,” said Kevin Cummins, a senior U.S. economist at RBS. The balanced report helped Wall Street end last week in the black and Japan’s Nikkei followed up with gains of 1 percent on Monday. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.2 percent, on top of 0.7 percent rally on Friday when the launch of U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports came and went without too many fireworks. “While trade tensions fan concerns about the future, incoming data show a soaring U.S. economy, a healthy labour market, and some rebound in Europe and Japan,” said Barclays economist Michael Gapen. “For now, overall policies and financial conditions still support growth and investment,” he added. “A sharper-than-expected China slowdown from a domestic credit crunch and external trade tensions could be the main risk to global growth.” The focus this week would be on Chinese data for June covering inflation, new loans and international trade.

The Politics of Data Privacy in a Post-Cambridge Analytica World

It is now six weeks since the Cambridge Analytica scandal rocked Facebook. Potential sea change — in the sense that Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica problem was only the most visible example of a much broader and deeper phenomenon. The core business model of many tech firms is monetizing the data they collect from users — not only for themselves but also for selling on to others. But there is a powerful political dynamic right below the surface: The more visible and widely understood the tech business model of monetizing user-generated data becomes, the more people will be upset about it — and the more likely government will try to respond through some sort of regulation (even if the regulation is misguided, ineffective or both). Facebook and Google are so big that there is a plausible prima facie argument that they can no longer be regulated by market forces; the government will have to step in. Given that their core business model is monetizing information on the behavior of users, the concern is about 21st century consumer protection on an unprecedented scale. Consumer protection is different from regulating tech firms like media companies (the other oft-cited “existential risk” to tech). Big advantages to tech companies that can demonstrate a history of taking data and privacy concerns more seriously, and/or whose business doesn’t rely heavily on monetizing user data. Big challenges for other industries that combine high tech with using personal data to drive the business — and hence where consumer protection looms large. Facebook/Cambridge Analytica swallowed all the media headlines because of its tie-in with Trump/Russia.

Knowledge, research, politics are focus of San Diego March for Science

The UC San Diego researcher was among more than 1,000 scientists, data geeks and everyday people to attend the March for Science at Waterfront Park on Saturday, the second annual drive to celebrate knowledge and connect data to everyday life. McDonald was staffing a booth promoting American Gut, a self-proclaimed citizen science project that aims to sequence and study millions of donated stools to better understand how individual human microbiomes can save lives. The 2018 march, which unfolded in hundreds of other cities across the nation on Saturday, was nowhere near as well-attended as the inaugural event a year ago, when 15,000 people paraded through downtown San Diego to support scientific research. But the organizers, speakers and attendees this year were every bit as passionate about what they see as a need to shield science from political influence and make sure public policies are based on evidence rather than ideology. They spoke about how science can save lives, create new industries and improve the human condition. They talked about pushing for explanations about arcane and routine questions that can spark innovations that change the world. "Science is going to be political, but it doesn't have to be partisan," said Mary Canady, one of the march organizers and the co-founder of a newly established nonprofit called San Diego For Science. "We tell people what the important issues are when looking at candidates." While speakers at the March for Science were largely non-partisan, some marchers carried signs criticizing President Trump because he has called climate change a hoax and threatened to cut funding for research. "Science is important, not only to science but to the world," said Robbie Todd, a professional photographer from North Park.

Facebook suspends Canadian political data firm

(CNN)Facebook announced late Friday that it is suspending AggregateIQ, a Canadian data firm, for its alleged ties to SCL, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. "In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received FB user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement provided to CNN. "Our internal review continues, and we will cooperate fully with any investigations by regulatory authorities." In a statement on its website, AggregateIQ distanced itself from Cambridge Analytica and SCL but did not deny it has done work with SCL. "AggregateIQ works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where it operates. It has never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity. All work AggregateIQ does for each client is kept separate from every other client." Cambridge Analytica said in a statement last week that it had "subcontracted some digital marketing and software development to Aggregate IQ in 2014 and 2015," and added, "The suggestion that Cambridge Analytica was somehow involved in any work done by Aggregate IQ in the 2016 EU referendum is entirely false." The news comes after Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to President Donald Trump's campaign, and its parent company last month over concerns about violations of the social media site's policies. Facebook has said the data was initially collected by a professor for academic purposes in line with its rules.

Ted Cruz says Cambridge Analytica assured him its voter data methods were legit after...

Cruz continued work with Cambridge Analytica for six months after allegations surfaced in December 2015 that the firm was using Facebook data it had received illicitly. Frazier declined a request for comment Monday. Questions about the firm A New York Times report published Saturday reopened questions about the firm and its methods, and the links between the Mercers, Trump and erstwhile Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Cruz campaign The Cruz campaign paid Cambridge Analytica $5.8 million between July 2015 and June 2016 for services that included "voter ID targeting," "voter modeling" and "survey research/donor modeling," according to the campaign's FEC reports. With Cruz out of the race, the Mercers shifted their support to Trump, and payments from his campaign to Cambridge Analytica began in July 2016 — $5.9 million for "data management" between then and December 2016. First questions In December 2015 — six weeks before the first voting of the presidential cycle in the Iowa caucuses — The Guardian raised questions about Cambridge Analytica's methods, reporting that: Ted Cruz's presidential campaign is using psychological data based on research spanning tens of millions of Facebook users, harvested largely without their permission, to boost his surging White House run and gain an edge over Donald Trump and other Republican rivals, the Guardian can reveal." Jeff Roe, Cruz's campaign manager, told The Post that the heavy reliance on data and analysis had rewritten the playbook for campaigns, making such tools as ads and polling less relevant. He didn't respond to an interview request on Monday. A top Cambridge official didn't respond to a request for comment, but Cruz campaign officials said the company developed its correlations in part by using data from Facebook that included subscribers' likes. Some news accounts indicate that his campaign stopped using the firm's data after the South Carolina primary in late February 2016, though federal campaign records show more than $670,000 in payments to the firm for "media/voter modeling" or "voter ID targeting/web service" in March and June, plus $218,000 for "media" and "digital service/web service."

Data Firm Tied to Trump Campaign Talked Business With Russians

When the Russia question came up during a hearing at the British Parliament last month, Alexander Nix did not hesitate. “We’ve never worked in Russia,” said Mr. Nix, head of a data consulting firm that advised the Trump campaign on targeting voters. “We’ve never worked with a Russian organization in Russia or any other country, and we don’t have any relationship with Russia or Russian individuals.” But Mr. Nix’s business did have some dealings with Russian interests, according to company documents and interviews. Mr. Nix is a director of SCL Group, a British political and defense contractor, and chief executive of its American offshoot, Cambridge Analytica, which advised the Trump campaign. Lukoil was interested in how data was used to target American voters, according to two former company insiders who said there were at least three meetings with Lukoil executives in London and Turkey. SCL and Lukoil denied that the talks were political in nature, and SCL also said there were no meetings in London. On two promotional documents obtained by The New York Times, SCL said it did business in Russia. While Mr. Nix’s firm turned over some records to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during its investigation of Russian interference, Democrats on the committee want a fuller review. Arash Repac, chief executive of Lukoil Eurasia Petrol, offered a different explanation for the talks. He said that a meeting he attended with SCL in Turkey involved a promotional campaign with local soccer teams.

Breach leaves Facebook users wondering: how safe is my data?

The claims that Cambridge Analytica used data harvested from millions of Facebook profiles to target voters in the US general election in 2016 raises tough questions for both companies. In what appeared to be a damage limitation exercise, the social network preempted the stories that appeared in the Observer and the New York Times over the weekend by banning the political strategy company from its platform while it investigated the claims. But this goes much deeper than that. Facebook’s 2.2bn active users might well wonder, how safe is their personal data? And is Facebook doing enough to secure it? ‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower Read more And why did Facebook only react on Friday, when it must have known there was a potential problem many months, if not years, ago. In August 2016, it sent a legal letter to Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica employee, asking him to destroy any data he held that had been improperly collected. More troubling still is the apparent lack of any systematic response to ensure the same type of breach does not happen again. What are the Cambridge Analytica Files? Facebook may also find its users asking uncomfortable questions about the social network’s own use of data.