Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: ‘We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles’


– How do you feel about your own
involvement in this now? – I mean do you feel responsible
for what happened? Uhm … Yeah, I do.
I do feel responsible for it. And it’s something that I regret and that’s partly why
I’m here talking to you. So that I can talk to …
So that people can know about what this company does, what this company is. Throughout history you have examples of grossly unethical experiments … – And is that what this was? I think that, you know, yes. It was a grossly unethical experiment because you are playing with an entire country, the psychology of an entire country without their consent or awareness. And not only are you like playing with the psychology of an entire nation, you’re playing with the psychology
of an entire nation in the context of the democratic process. My name is Christopher Wylie, I’m a data scientist and I help
set up Cambridge Analytica. It’s incorrect to call Cambridge Analytica a purely sort of data science company or an algorithm company. It is a full service propaganda machine. If you can control
all the streams of information around your opponents,
you can influence how they perceive that battle space and you can then influence
how they’re going to behave and react. Alexander Nix, where do I begin? He is not the easiest person
to work for, he’s ambitious. He cares more, I think, about winning than what we actually
did at the company. He’s an upper-class Etonian who expects people to follow him wherever he goes. When I first met him I knew
he was Steve, from America. And then later I got told that he was the editor of Brietbart. I’d heard of Brietbart, you know it’s the blog for angry white men
to rant about whatever. Steve Bannon saw himself as an intellectual. We would need to sort of present ourselves in a way that was more academic, more academic, more sort of ideas focused and all that. Alexander realised that we needed
a Cambridge site. And so we set up
a fake office in Cambridge. And whenever Steve would come we would bring a bunch of people
from the London office, plop them into the Cambridge office, and give Steve the impression that we had a lot of our operations
based out of the University. We changed how he perceived who we are and what we were doing and it was his idea, Steve’s idea, to give the company the name
Cambridge Analytica. This sort of warped perception is infused into the name Cambridge Analytica itself. – So you psyops’d Steve Bannon basically? In a way. He was a target audience of one. – And you changed his perception of reality? And we changed his perception
of who we were and what we were doing and what the situation he was in, yeah. – And then from there, it was like,
you took that, to then America to change the perception of reality for America? Yes. The reason why he was interested in this is because he follows this idea
of the Brietbart doctrine, which is that, if you want to change politics you first have to change culture because politics flows from culture and so what I said is that
if you want to change culture, you have to first understand
what the units of culture are. People are the units of culture. So if you want to change politics, you first have to change people
to change the culture. – Did that fit in with you know his … he had quite a famous expression about politics
being war? If you want to fight a battle
or you want to fight a war, you want to win a war,
you need weapons for that. He wanted cultural weapons.
We could build them for him. But obviously he needed the money to do it, so he took it to Robert Mercer. – Who’s Robert Mercer? He is an American billionaire in New York and before he was … he got rich through
algorithms. Alexander Nix is with he and me starts with his sort of like razzle-dazzle … ‘oh we work for the Pentagon, we work for
MoD, Mi6 … da da da da da … we are brilliant and Eton and what not and I’m a posh British man and you should trust me with all your money.’ Essentially the pitch was that we were going to combine micro-targeting which had existed in politics, which was you know,
in part, my background but bring on board a new construct,
new constructs from psychology so that we wouldn’t just be targeting you as a voter we would be targeting you as personality. And in order to scale then we will
then be collecting a lot of data on people … so that we could build a
psychological profile of each voter in a particular region or in this case
all of the United States. Alexander was quite excited,
he got a bottle of champagne. We had a sabre in the office,
he sabered the champagne. And but then the next day, it was sort of like, “Ok now what?” You get all this money and you’ve got a billionaire
breathing down your neck, going: “Why don’t I have it yet? “I’ve just given you
tens of millions of dollars “and like where’s my psychological
warfare weapon.” I needed to figure out a way of getting data and so I went to these Profs and asked, “What do you think?” Right? So, we’ve done all these cool pilots but how would you do this for like an entire
country? What Kogan offered us was something
that was way cheaper, way faster and of a quality
that nothing matched. They had apps on Facebook that
were given special permission to harvest data not from just
the person who used the app or joined the app but also it would then go into their
entire friend network and pull out all of the friends’ data as well. So if one person, if you joined the app, I would not just see your Facebook profile, I would see all of the Facebook profiles of everybody that you’re friends with. We would only need to touch a couple of hundred
thousand people to expand in their entire social network, which would then scale us to most of America. – And people had no idea that their data was being taken in this way? No. No. If you were a friend of somebody
who used the app, you would have no idea that I’ve
just pulled all of your data. It was almost everything that would be
on a Facebook profile. So that was things like status updates, likes, in some cases private messages … – So Cambridge Analytica has people’s private messages they sent on Facebook? I can’t say whether they did or not. What I’m saying, what I’m saying
is what the app can do. – So, you didn’t ever stop to and think actually this is people’s personal information and we’re taking it and
we’re using it in ways that they don’t understand? You didn’t think, “actually, I’m not
sure about this”? Uhm … You know … The company
… We didn’t do a good job
at due diligence. So, no. We didn’t … uhm … you know … – But what about you? Not just the company, your involvement in that. Uhm … No. I mean, I, we, we were solely focused on getting us data and doing this experiment. – How many profiles were you pulling? Tens of millions.
Upwards of 50, 60 million files were collected in a two or three month period. When Alexander Nix told
the parliamentary inquiry on fake news that Cambridge Analytica has never used Facebook data, at least from when I was there that’s just fundamentally not true, because we spent $1 million dollars harvesting tens of millions of Facebook profiles and those profiles were used
as the basis of the algorithms that became the foundation
of Cambridge Analytica itself. The company itself was founded
on using Facebook data. – So, you’ve harvested my data and then you’ve used that to target me in ways that I can’t see
and that I don’t understand? Yeah. So, we would know
what kinds of messaging you’d be susceptible to,
including the framing of it, the topics, the content, the tone, whether it’s scary or not,
that kind of thing. So what you would be susceptible to and where you’re going to consume that and then how many times
did we need to touch you with that in order to change how
you think about something. In addition to having data scientists and psychologists and strategists, they also have and entire team of creatives, designers, videographers, photographers. They then create that content, that gets sent to a targeting team, which then
injects it into the internet. Websites will be created.
Blogs will be created. Whatever it is that we think
this target profile will be receptive to,
we will create content on the Internet for them to find. And then they see that
and they click it and then they go down the rabbit hole until they start to think that,
you know, something … Until they start to think
something differently, yeah. Instead of standing in the public square and saying what you think
and then letting people come and listen to you
and have that shared experience as to what your, what your narrative is, you are whispering into the ear
of each and every voter and you may be whispering
one thing to this voter and another thing to another voter. We risk fragmenting society in a way where we don’t have
anymore shared experiences and we don’t have anymore
shared understanding. If we don’t have anymore shared understanding how can we be a functioning society? – Thinking about that now, do you think that did change America
or played a part in it? I think it probably played a part. I can’t say for sure whether,
you know, what was the defining … What was the defining factor in, you know, getting Trump elected
or growing the alt-right. If you want to fundamentally change society you first have to break it. And it’s only when you break it
is when you can re-mould the pieces into your vision
of a new, of a new society. This was the weapon
that Steve Bannon wanted to build to fight his culture war. – So, who do you trust? I … I … I … This is such a hard
question to answer. Who do I trust? Uhm … I don’t want to say
I don’t trust anyone but … Do you know what I would say?
I would say I go through life with
a healthy dose of skepticism and I think that healthy
dose of skepticism as to what you’re seeing
and what you’re hearing and who you’re talking to is the best way to go through life.

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