Friday, March 30, 2018


I have no Social Media presence unless you count Twitter which is under the pseudonym I write with. I write under such for personal protection as I write about many issues I encounter in my daily life and I feel that a veneer of privacy is essential for my own protection. I have no Facebook page nor want one and never felt compelled to put myself out there for many reasons and today the I told you so has definitely been a plus when it comes to that.

I am in the middle of reading Brotopia and the one individual that the author sings praises about is Sheryl Sandberg.  I don't know Ms. Sandberg and I can only comment on her book which I found trite and useless but to some they use it as a Bible and good for them.  Her history in tech is well documented and it was her concept of AdWords that led Google to be profitable and why you are annoyed by them every time you sign on with oddly every single thing you have ever looked at or perused online.  Google has that right as you signed off of it when you signed up for Email through their server or use the search engine to peruse that Golf catalog for a gift for your dad.  The same goes with Blogger or any other connected use that they have which you access FREE.  Your data is your price you pay to use something another provides free.  No such thing as a free lunch they say.

But in this current hysteria over the Cambridge Analytica saga and Facebook there is one person invisible in the midst of this - Sheryl Sandberg. Now the "genius" Mark Zuckerberg denies the truth  but has agreed to testify before Congress,  and he sent an agent to England to do the same and yet Sheryl is leaning out and I have to wonder why given her import in the previous Administration.  Hmm that may be why?

And Apple has come out against the pay for play model which given Apple's own role in the dynamic I find interesting. But Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs and frankly that is something that I appreciate.

But the Valley is the current industry that matters in America. It is a cyclical process.  The other titan of said industry, Jeff Bezos, is following in a long tradition of monopoly and by that I don't mean the game.  The Nation did an amazing issue dedicated the problems of large consolidations of industry and reality how it affects us as both customers and taxpayers.  Funny how the Douchebag-in-Chief is now firing tweets in The Bezos direction but it is highly unlikely anyone is willing to resolve this issue as we know from history they are the true powers behind the throne and co-dependency proves that in this corporations are people too!

What is interesting is that the entire bullcrap around profiling and metrics that by your "likes" and such they have a group of supposed Psychologists able to discern a personality profile and in turn target ads and articles is just more neuro quackery.  But if you believe a Medium or a Tarot Card reader what is the diff.  I love Astrology too! But it does do a pretty good gage of a persons immediate characteristics and qualities as that is what generalizing, stereotyping and over analyzing someone does.  They just are able to do it en mass.  And this is the same crap that they are doing to profile and determine someone's history on crime and their likelihood of doing so again.  And that too has been questioned as it is largely racist in outcome.  Programmers put their own bias, knowledge and familiarity into the code - data in - data out.   

The reality behind Cambridge Analytics and the Palantir are ways to generate money. And while Britain heard from the pink haired whistle blower the real names behind the company, the Mercer Family of Breitbart and Banning fame and Peter Thiel of the angry gay man who destroyed Gawker and metaphorically blew Trump are the ones who again fall to the wayside.  Money pays but those who talk are an entirely different animal.  And the reality is that we are all getting something free from them and in turn making them wealthy.  Free email, free shipping, free texts but you pay in ways that are beyond the pale.  Getting something for nothing is sometimes worth what you pay for.

Spy Contractor’s Idea Helped Cambridge Analytica Harvest Facebook Data


As a start-up called Cambridge Analytica sought to harvest the Facebook data of tens of millions of Americans in summer 2014, the company received help from at least one employee at Palantir Technologies, a top Silicon Valley contractor to American spy agencies and the Pentagon.

It was a Palantir employee in London, working closely with the data scientists building Cambridge’s psychological profiling technology, who suggested the scientists create their own app — a mobile-phone-based personality quiz — to gain access to Facebook users’ friend networks, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

Cambridge ultimately took a similar approach. By early summer, the company found a university researcher to harvest data using a personality questionnaire and Facebook app. The researcher scraped private data from over 50 million Facebook users — and Cambridge Analytica went into business selling so-called psychometric profiles of American voters, setting itself on a collision course with regulators and lawmakers in the United States and Britain.

The revelations pulled Palantir — co-founded by the wealthy libertarian Peter Thiel — into the furor surrounding Cambridge, which improperly obtained Facebook data to build analytical tools it deployed on behalf of Donald J. Trump and other Republican candidates in 2016. Mr. Thiel, a supporter of President Trump, serves on the board at Facebook.

“There were senior Palantir employees that were also working on the Facebook data,” said Christopher Wylie, a data expert and Cambridge Analytica co-founder, in testimony before British lawmakers on Tuesday.

Cambridge Analytica has found itself confronting a deepening crisis since reports about the firm’s data harvesting were published this month in The New York Times, The Observer of London and The
The connections between Palantir and Cambridge Analytica were thrust into the spotlight by Mr. Wylie’s testimony on Tuesday. Both companies are linked to tech-driven billionaires who backed Mr. Trump’s campaign: Cambridge is chiefly owned by Robert Mercer, the computer scientist and hedge fund magnate, while Palantir was co-founded in 2003 by Mr. Thiel, who was an initial investor in Facebook.

The Palantir employee, Alfredas Chmieliauskas, works on business development for the company, according to his LinkedIn page. In an initial statement, Palantir said it had “never had a relationship with Cambridge Analytica, nor have we ever worked on any Cambridge Analytica data.” Later on Tuesday, Palantir revised its account, saying that Mr. Chmieliauskas was not acting on the company’s behalf when he advised Mr. Wylie on the Facebook data.

“We learned today that an employee, in 2013-2014, engaged in an entirely personal capacity with people associated with Cambridge Analytica,” the company said. “We are looking into this and will take the appropriate action.”

The company said it was continuing to investigate but knew of no other employees who took part in the effort. Mr. Wylie told lawmakers that multiple Palantir employees played a role.

Documents and interviews indicate that starting in 2013, Mr. Chmieliauskas began corresponding with Mr. Wylie and a colleague from his Gmail account. At the time, Mr. Wylie and the colleague worked for the British defense and intelligence contractor SCL Group, which formed Cambridge Analytica with Mr. Mercer the next year. The three shared Google documents to brainstorm ideas about using big data to create sophisticated behavioral profiles, a product code-named “Big Daddy.”

A former intern at SCL — Sophie Schmidt, the daughter of Eric Schmidt, then Google’s executive chairman — urged the company to link up with Palantir, according to Mr. Wylie’s testimony and a June 2013 email viewed by The Times.

“Ever come across Palantir. Amusingly Eric Schmidt’s daughter was an intern with us and is trying to push us towards them?” one SCL employee wrote to a colleague in the email.

Ms. Schmidt did not respond to requests for comment, nor did a spokesman for Cambridge Analytica.

In early 2013, Alexander Nix, an SCL director who became chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, and a Palantir executive discussed working together on election campaigns.

A Palantir spokeswoman acknowledged that the companies had briefly considered working together but said that Palantir declined a partnership, in part because executives there wanted to steer clear of election work. Emails reviewed by The Times indicate that Mr. Nix and Mr. Chmieliauskas sought to revive talks about a formal partnership through early 2014, but Palantir executives again declined.

In his testimony, Mr. Wylie acknowledged that Palantir and Cambridge Analytica never signed a contract or entered into a formal business relationship. But he said some Palantir employees helped engineer Cambridge’s psychographic models.

“There were Palantir staff who would come into the office and work on the data,” Mr. Wylie told lawmakers. “And we would go and meet with Palantir staff at Palantir.” He did not provide an exact number for the employees or identify them.

Palantir employees were impressed with Cambridge’s backing from Mr. Mercer, one of the world’s richest men, according to messages viewed by The Times. And Cambridge Analytica viewed Palantir’s Silicon Valley ties as a valuable resource for launching and expanding its own business.

In an interview this month with The Times, Mr. Wylie said that Palantir employees were eager to learn more about using Facebook data and psychographics. Those discussions continued through spring 2014, according to Mr. Wylie.

Mr. Wylie said that he and Mr. Nix visited Palantir’s London office on Soho Square. One side was set up like a high-security office, Mr. Wylie said, with separate rooms that could be entered only with particular codes. The other side, he said, was like a tech start-up — “weird inspirational quotes and stuff on the wall and free beer, and there’s a Ping-Pong table.”

Mr. Chmieliauskas continued to communicate with Mr. Wylie’s team in 2014, as the Cambridge employees were locked in protracted negotiations with a researcher at Cambridge University, Michal Kosinski, to obtain Facebook data through an app Mr. Kosinski had built. The data was crucial to efficiently scale up Cambridge’s psychometrics products so they could be used in elections and for corporate clients.

“I had left field idea,” Mr. Chmieliauskas wrote in May 2014. “What about replicating the work of the cambridge prof as a mobile app that connects to facebook?” Reproducing the app, Mr. Chmieliauskas wrote, “could be a valuable leverage negotiating with the guy.”

Those negotiations failed. But Mr. Wylie struck gold with another Cambridge researcher, the Russian-American psychologist Aleksandr Kogan, who built his own personality quiz app for Facebook. Over subsequent months, Dr. Kogan’s work helped Cambridge develop psychological profiles of millions of American voters.

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