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Investigation-Das Magazin: how Big Data and a pair of scientists ensured the victory of Trump and Brexit
Material posted: Publication date: 08-12-2016
On Saturday, December 2, the Swiss magazine Das Magazin has published an investigation about how technology personalized advertising network Facebook has affected the outcome of the elections in the United States and a referendum on British exit from the EU. As noted bythe German Spiegel, many journalists have called the investigation "a text of the year". It has everything: the latest technologies; and the universal weapon, which came from good hand to bad; and daily surveillance of each of us; mystery customers; and the transformation from pauper to Prince (and Vice versa). The Insider publishes the full translation from the German language.

At half past eight in the morning on November 9 Michal Kosinski woke up in hotel Sunnehus Zurich. 34-year-old scientist came to speak at the Federal higher technical school (ETH) with a report at the conference about the dangers of Big Data and the so-called "digital revolution." Such lectures Kosinski travels around the world: after all, he is a leading expert in psychometrics — psychology section, based on the analysis of the data. Turning on the morning TV, he realized that the bomb exploded. Donald trump was elected President of the United States, despite all the predictions of sociologists.

Kozinski for a long time watching the news about the triumph of trump, the results of the voting in different States. He suspects that the incident somehow linked to his scientific developments. Kozinski sighs and turns off the TV.

On the same day, a hitherto little-known London firm sends out a press release as follows: "We were astonished that our revolutionary approach is based on data communication made a significant contribution to the victory of Donald trump". A press release signed by a certain Alexander James Ashburner Nicks. 41-year-old, he's British and has led the company Cambridge Analytica. NYX always wears a suit, fashion horn glasses, and his blond wavy hair is usually combed back ago.

Brooding Kozinski, sleek Knicks and smiling broadly trump first made the digital revolution possible, the second it was carried out, the latter was thanks to her winner.

How dangerous Big Data?

Now everyone who lived on the moon for the last five years, familiar with the term Big Data. This term means that everything we do — online or offline — leaves a digital trail. Buying with a credit card, a request to Google, walk with a smartphone in your pocket, every "like" in social networks: all this is stored. For a long time nobody could understand what good could use this data — well, only except those cases when the ribbon POPs up Facebook advertising funds from hypertension because recently we searching Google for "how to lower pressure." It was not clear what is Big Data for humanity — great danger or great achievement? But on November 9, we know the answer to that. Even after the election campaign trump on the Internet, and the campaign for Brexit is the same company that explores Big Data: Cambridge Analytica and its Director Alexander Knicks. Who wants to understand the nature of these polls (and the nature of what is awaiting Europe in the coming months), must begin with important events that occurred in 2014 in the British Cambridge University. Namely, at the Department of psychometrics Kozinski.

Psychometry, which is sometimes called psychography, is an attempt to measure human personality. In modern psychology, the standard is the so-called "method of the ocean" (the OCEAN of letters, anagram five dimensions in English). In 1980-ies of the two psychologists proved that each trait can be measured using five dimensions. This so-called "big five": openness (how far you're willing to the new?), integrity (how you're a perfectionist?), extroversion (how you relate to society?), goodwill (as far as you are friendly and willing to cooperate?) and neuroticism (how easily you get yourself?) On the basis of these measurements it is possible to understand exactly what kind of person you're dealing with, what his desires and fears, finally, how he can behave. The problem was in the data collection: in order to understand something about the man, he was required to fill out a huge questionnaire. But then came the Internet, then Facebook, then Kozinski.

In 2008, a student from Warsaw Michal Kosinski started a new life: he enrolled at the prestigious Cambridge English, the psychometrics Centre, the Cavendish laboratory, the first laboratory of psychometrics in the world. With his classmates he invented and launched an application for Facebook called MyPersonality. The user was asked to answer a huge list of questions ("you get yourself under stress? Do you have a tendency to criticize others?"), then having your "personality profile" and the creators of the app have received invaluable personal information. Instead of the expected data for a dozen classmates, the makers received information on hundreds, thousands, and then millions of people. Two doctoral students collected the greatest "harvest" of data in the history of psychological research.

The process that Kosinski associates developed over the next few years, is quite simple. First, the test obtains a list of questions, online test. Of the responses to it, the scientists calculate the personal values of the subject. Further, Kozinski with the team exploring the actions of the subject: like and repost in Facebook, as well as gender, age and place of residence. So the researchers get connected. From a simple analysis of the data in the network can produce unusual insights. For example, if a man signed on the page of the brand of MAC cosmetics, it is with high probability is gay. On the contrary, a strong indicator of heterosexuality — if a person 'liked' the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan from new York. A fan of Lady Gaga with high probability extrovert, a person putting "like" the philosophical posts — an introvert.

Analysis 68 likes on Facebook is enough to determine the color of the skin of the test (with 95% probability), his homosexuality (88% probability) and a commitment to the Democratic or Republican party

Kosinski and his colleagues continually improving their model. In 2012, Kosinski proved that analysis 68 likes on Facebook is enough to determine the color of the skin of the test (with 95% probability), his homosexuality (88% probability) and a commitment to the Democratic or the Republican party (85% probability). But the process goes further: intellectual development, religious preferences, addiction to alcohol, Smoking or drugs. The data even allows to find out whether the divorced parents subject to his age or not. The model was so good that it became possible to predict the subject's answers to certain questions. Intoxicated with success, Kozinski continued: soon, the model was better able to learn the identity after ten studied likes than his work colleagues. After 70 likes better than the other. After 150 likes — better than the parents. After 300 likes — better than partner. With more studied action could be to know the person better than himself. On the day when Kosinski published an article about his model, he got two calls: a complaint and a job offer. Both calls were from the company Facebook.

Only for friends

Now on Facebook you can mark your posts as public and private, "Podzamcze": in the second case, it can be viewed only by a certain circle of friends. But for collectors this is not a problem. If Kozinski has always sought agreements users of Facebook, current tests require access to personal information as a prerequisite for their passage.

But it's not just about "likes" in Facebook: Kosinski and the team can assess people according to the Big five criteria based on their profile pic photos in social networks. Or even the number of friends a good indicator of extroversion! But we also hand over personal data when they are offline. The motion sensor in the smartphone shows whether we wave hand with him, how far I go (correlated with emotional instability). As Kozinski notes, the smartphone is a huge psychological questionnaire, which we wittingly or unwittingly fill. Crucially, it also works in reverse: you can not only create from the data a profile, you can search in these portraits need. For example, concerned father, embittered introverts, not undecided, supporters of the Democrats. In fact, Kosinski invented a search engine for people.

All the more clearly Kozinski understood the potential and the danger of their work.

A worldwide network has always seemed a godsend. You always want to "return", "share". It is the spirit of the new generation, the beginning of a new era without physical boundaries. But what happens thought Kozinski, if someone decides to use this search engine for people to manipulate them? He starts to put warnings on all of its scientific publications. The warnings that his methods "can threaten the well-being, freedom or even the lives of people." But no one seems to understand what he's doing.

Around this time, in early 2014, Kozinski asked a young assistant Professor named Alexander Kogan. He had a request from a certain company, interested in the method Kozinski. The proposal was to perform by psychometrics 10 million American users of Facebook. For what purpose, the source did not say for privacy reasons. Kozinski initially agreed, we are talking about large sums of money in favor of his Institute, but then started to delay the agreement. In the end, he pushed Kogan's the name of the company: SCL Strategic Communications Laboratories ("Laboratory for strategic communications"). Kozinski googled the company name. "We are a global company on management of election campaigns," reads the website of the company offering marketing based on psychology and logic. Focus on the impact on the election outcome. Kozinski puzzled, I clicked through the site's pages, wondering what may engage this firm in the United States.

What Kosinski at the time did not know: SCL is a complex corporate system, tied to "tax havens", later it was shown in "Panama" and the revelations of Wikileaks. Part of the system responsible for the crises in developing countries, the other NATO helped to develop methods of psychological manipulation of citizens of Afghanistan. One of the subsidiaries of SCL — the same Cambridge Analytica, sinister small company, who organized campaigns in support of Brexit and trump.

Kosinski knows nothing about it, but suspects something to be wrong. After the study, he found out that Alexander Kogan has created a secret company that does business with SCL. From the document, which is available to Das Magazin, it follows that SCL received data about the method Kozinski is out of the hands of Kogan. Kozinski suddenly dawned on me that Kogan could copy or build anew his system, and then to sell it to the scientists from SCL. The scientist immediately breaks the link with Kogan and informs about the situation of your Institute's head. Inside the Institute of brewing conflict, the establishment feared for his reputation. Kogan moved to Singapore, got married and started to call themselves doctor Spectrum. Kosinski moved to the States, I started working at Stanford.

More than a year all is quiet, but in November 2015, the leader of the radical supporters of Brexit Farage has announced that his site connects with its Internet campaign, a company specializing in Big Data, namely, Cambridge Analytica. The key competence of the firm: the political marketing of a new type — the so-called "on micro targeting" — based on "a method of ocean."

Kozinski begins to receive many letters — under the word "Cambridge", "ocean" and "Analytics", many people think that he is somehow connected with it. However, it is only then he learns about the existence of such a company. In horror he looks at the website of the company. Nightmare came true: his methodology is used in a big political game.

In July 2016, after the referendum on Brexit, on his head begin to fall curse. Say, look what you did! Every time Kozinski has to justify and prove to the company it is irrelevant.

First Brexit, then trump

It's been ten months. On the calendar September 19, 2016, the election campaign in the United States is in full swing. Hall new York's Grand Hyatt hotel, made in dark blue tones, filled with guitar riffs: playing the song Bad Moon Rising Creedence Clearwater Revival. Hosts the annual Concordia summit, the world economic forum in miniature. Invited the powerful, even the current President of Switzerland Johann Schneider-Ammann. "Please welcome Alexander nix, Director of the Cambridge Analytica" — is heard a pleasant female voice. At the scene rises a lanky man in a dark suit. In the room silence reigns. Many already know that they face a new digital specialist trump. "Soon you'll call me Mr. Brexit" — the mysterious trump wrote on his Twitter a few weeks earlier. Indeed, scientists already wrote about the similarity of programs, trump, and supporters of a British exit from the EU. And only a few knew about trump's little-known Cambridge Analytica.

Until digital campaign trump was more or less one person: brad Parscale. Marketing enthusiast and founder of one failed startup, he gave trump a simple web site for $1500. 70-year-old trump is hardly a man of the digital age: on his Desk, even no computer. Once told his personal assistant, there is not even such thing as an email from trump. She assistant taught it to his mobile — which he then pours streams of thoughts in Twitter.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, relied on the legacy of Barack Obama as the first "social media President". She had the address leaves the Democratic party, millions of subscribers, support for Google and Dreamworks. When, in June 2016, trump has hired Cambridge Analytica, many in Washington made a wry face. Foreign dudes in suits who have nothing in this country not understand? Seriously?

"It's an honor, ladies and gentlemen, to tell you now about the power of Big Data and psychometrics in the election campaign", — said at the summit of the Knicks. Behind him, in that moment there was a slide with the logo of his company: the image of a brain composed of networks like the map. "A couple of months ago Ted Cruz was one of the least endorse candidates, said the blond with an English accent, but so what present Americans felt like the Swiss, who hear standard German. Only 40% of the electorate knew his name." All present remembered the story of the meteoric rise of Senator Cruz's conservative, perhaps the most inexplicable event of the race. The last major opponents of trump within the Republican party literally came out of nowhere. "Well, how did this happen?" asked NYX. At the end of 2014 Ccambridge Analytica entered in the electoral campaign in the United States is as an Advisor to Ted Cruz, which was funded by billionaire Robert Mercer. Until then, claimed the Knicks, the election campaign was conducted according to demographic criteria: "a Stupid idea, if you seriously think about it: all women receive the same message because they are same sex, all African Americans receive a different message based on their race." So amateurish way (and there is Nix you can do not add) led the campaign team Clinton: to divide society into formal homogeneous groups, suggested by sociologists. The same ones that until the very end gave her the win.

The Knicks and then clicks on another slide: five persons, each matches a particular personality profile, the Big five dimensions. "We in Cambridge Analytica have developed a model that will calculate the identity of each adult citizen of the United States," continues nicks. Hall in complete silence. Marketing success Cambridge Analytica is based on three pillars. It is a psychological behavioural analysis based on the "model ocean", the study of Big Data and targeted advertising. This means personalized advertising, and such advertising, which most closely adapts to the nature of the individual consumer.

The Knicks genuinely explains how his company is doing (lecture available on YouTube). His firm buys personal data from all possible sources: cadastral lists, bonus programs, telephone directories, membership cards, newspaper subscriptions, health information. In USA it is possible to buy almost any personal data. If you want to know, for example, where live Jewish woman, you can safely buy database. Then Cambridge Analytica crosses these data with lists of registered supporters of the Republican party and data by likes-reposts in Facebook — it turns out a personal profile by the "method of the ocean." From the figures suddenly there are people with fears, aspirations and interests — and residence addresses.

The procedure is identical Kosinski developed the model. Cambridge Analytica also uses IQ tests and other small applications to get meaningful "likes" from Facebook users. And the company of nix makes something Kozinski warned: "we Have psychogramm all adult Americans, 220 million people. Our control room looks like this, please" — says the Knicks while you click the slides. There is a map of Iowa, where Ted Cruz has collected an unexpectedly large number of votes in the primaries. The map shows hundreds of thousands of small dots: red and blue party colors. Nix builds the criteria. The Republicans and the blue dots disappear. Still undecided with the choice — points becomes smaller. Men still less, and so on. In the end, appears the name of the person: age, address, interests, political preferences. But like Cambridge Analytica handles individual people with their message?

In another presentation the Knicks told how the example law on the free distribution of arms: "fearful people with high levels of neuroticism, we present a weapon as a source of security. Here, the left picture shows the hand of the burglar who smashes the window. And on the right picture we see the man with the son who go on the field with rifles into the sunset. Obviously duck hunt. This picture is for the rich conservatives-extroverts".

How to keep the electorate Clinton from voting

Contradictory nature of trump, his unscrupulousness and out of this a whole plethora of different messages suddenly played into his hands: for each voter a message. "The trump acts as a perfect opportunistic algorithm that relies only on public reaction," — noted in August, mathematician Cathy O'neil. On the day of the third debate between trump and Clinton team trump sent in social networks (mainly Facebook) over 175 thousand different variations of messages. They differ only in minute detail to accurately psychologically to adapt to recipient-specific information: headings and sub-headings, background colors, use of photo or video in the post. Intricate execution allows messages resonate with the smallest populations, explained Das Magazin nix himself: "This way we can reach out to the right of the villages, quarters, or houses, even to the people." In the quarter, Little Haiti in Miami, launched the information about the refusal of the Clinton Foundation to participate in the liquidation of consequences of the earthquake in Haiti — to persuade residents to give their votes to Clinton. It was another goal: to keep the electorate Clinton (e.g., doubting leftists, African-Americans and young girls) from the ballot box, "crush" their choice, in the words of one of employees of a trump. Was used and so-called "dark posts" Facebook: paid ads in the middle of the news feed, which could get caught only to certain groups. for Example, blacks were shown posts with a video in which Clinton compared black men with predators.

"My children will not be able to explain what it means promotional poster with the same message for everyone," concluded nicks his speech at the summit of Concordia, thank you for your attention and descends from the stage.

How American society at this particular moment is handled by the experts of the trump, hard to say, because they rarely attack on the Central TV channels, and most of all use social networks and digital TV. And while Clinton's team who worked on the patterns of social scientists, is in a lethargy, in San Antonio, where is the "digital headquarters" trump, occurs, according to the Bloomberg correspondent Sasha Issenberg, "second headquarters". Only a dozen employees in Cambridge Analytica received from trump in July $100 thousand, in August, another $250 thousand in September and $5 million According to the calculations of nix, the total amount of payment for services amounted to $15 million.

But the event is also radical: from July 2016 volunteers campaign trump got the application that dictates political preferences and personality types of residents of a home. Accordingly, volunteers agitators have modified your conversation with the residents based on these data. Feedback volunteers were recorded in the same application and data is sent directly to the analytical center Cambridge Analytica.

The firm dedicates U.S. citizens 32 psycho, focusing only 17 States. And as Kozinski found that men okonniki of MAC cosmetics are likely to be homosexuals in Cambridge Analytica proved that the adherents of the American automobile industry by far are potential supporters of the trump. In addition, such discoveries helped himself Trump to understand what the message of where to apply. The decision of the election headquarters of focus in recent weeks in Michigan and Wisconsin was taken on the basis of data analysis. The candidate became a model for the application system.

What does Cambridge Analytica in Europe?

But how great was the influence of psychometrics on the outcome of the election? Cambridge Analytica in no hurry to present evidence of the success of its campaign. It is possible that it is all a question unanswered. Although, there is one fact: thanks to the support of Cambridge Analytica Ted Cruz became from nothing to a serious rival trump in the primaries. Here the growth of the votes of rural residents. Here, the reduction of electoral activity of African Americans. Even the fact that trump has spent on a project with so little money, can talk about the effectiveness of personalized promotion. And even the fact that he got three quarters of the advertising budget in the digital sphere. Facebook turned into the ultimate weapon and the best assistant in the elections, as he wrote on Twitter one of the companions of the trump. By the way, in Germany utilitaria "Alternative for Germany" has more Facebook subscribers than major parties, the CDU and SPD together.

In addition, in no way one can argue that sociologists, statisticians, lost the election because he made a mistake with their predictions. The reverse is true: the statistics won, but only those that used the latest methods. Joke story: trump was constantly criticized this science, but won largely due to her.

The second winner — Cambridge Analytica. The publisher is the chief conservative mouthpiece Breitbart, Steve Bannon, is also on the Board of Directors of this company. He was recently appointed senior strategist for the team trump. Marion maréchal Le Pen, an activist of the French "National front" and the niece of the leader of the party, has happily announced the cooperation with the company, internal corporate video which shows a meeting on the theme "Italy". According to nicks, now im interested clients from all over the world. Already there have been requests for cooperation from Switzerland and Germany.

All this watching and Kosinski from his office at Stanford. After the US elections at the University everything is upside down. The developments Kozinski meet the sharp weapons available to a researcher: a research analysis. Together with his colleague Sandra Matts he conducted a series of tests, the results of which will soon be published. Some of these conclusions that learned shared with Das Magazin, shocking. For example, psychological targeting, similar to that used in Cambridge Analytica, increase the number of clicks on ads in Facebook at 60%. The possibility that after watching personalized ads people will go to action (buy this or that thing, or vote for the right candidate) increases by 1400%.

Now the world turned upside down: Brexit held in America will soon be ruled by trump. It all started with a man who wanted to warn us of danger. He now gets a lot of complaints on work e-mail. "No, says Kozinski. — It's not my fault. I did not built the bomb, I just showed that they exist."


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