Investigation Das Magazin: how Big Data and a pair of scientists ensured the victory of Trump and Brexit

On Saturday, 2 December, the Swiss magazine Das Magazin published an investigation about how the technology of personalized advertising on Facebook influenced the election results in the US and the UK referendum on withdrawal from the EU. As noted German Spiegel, many journalists have started calling the investigation “, the text”. It has everything: the latest technology; and versatile weapon, which fell from the hands of the good in the bad; and daily surveillance of each of us; and mysterious customers; and the transformation from pauper to prince (and vice versa). The Insider publishes the full text translation from German.

In half of the ninth in the morning November 9 Michal Kozinski woke up in Zurich Sunnehus Hotel. 34-year-old scientist came to speak at the Federal Technical High School (ETH) at the conference about the dangers of Big Data and the so-called “digital revolution.” With such lectures Kozinskiy travels around the world: he is a leading expert in psychometry – the section of psychology, based on the analysis of data. Enabling the TV in the morning, he realized that the bomb exploded. Donald Trump was elected US President, despite all the predictions of sociologists.

Kozinski long time watching the news of the triumph of Trump, the results of voting on different states. He suspects that the incident had something to do with its scientific development. Kozinski sighs and turns off the TV.

The same day, a hitherto little-known London-based company sends out a press release: “We are amazed that our revolutionary approach to data based on communications made such a significant contribution to the victory of Donald Trump.” Press release signed by a certain Alexander James Eshbernerom Nicks. He was 41 years old, he is British and heads the company Cambridge Analytica. Knicks always wears a suit, fashionable horn-rimmed glasses, and his blond wavy hair combed back normally.

Thoughtful Kozinski, sleek Knicks and widely smiling Trump – first made possible the digital revolution, it has carried out the second, the latter has become the winner because of it.

How dangerous is Big Data?

Now, anyone who did not live on the moon the last five years, is familiar with the term Big Data. This term means and that all that we do – on the Internet or “offline” – leaves a digital trail. Purchase by credit card, you can ask Google, walking with a smartphone in your pocket Like everyone in the social network: all that is saved. For a long time no one could understand what good could come in handy this data – well, only except when the tape Facebook pops up advertising funds from hypertension, because recently we were looking for in Google «how to lower the pressure.” It was not clear, and that is what Big Data for mankind – a great danger or a great achievement? But on November 9, we know the answer to that. After all, for the pre-election campaign on the Internet Trump, and the campaign in support Brexit it is the same company that investigates Big Data: Cambridge Analytica and its director Alexander Nix. Who wants to understand the nature of the voting (and the nature of what awaits Europe in the coming months), must begin with the remarkable events that occurred in 2014 in the British University of Cambridge. Namely, at the Department of psychometrics Kosinski.

Psychometry, which is sometimes called psychographics, is an attempt to measure the human personality. In modern psychology, the standard is the so-called “ocean method” (spelled OCEAN, an anagram of five measurements in English). In the 1980s, two psychologists have proven that each trait can be measured using five measurements. This so-called “Big Five”: openness (how much you are ready for the new?), Integrity (how much you are a perfectionist?), Extraversion (how you feel about the society?), Goodwill (as far as you are friendly and willing to cooperate?) And neuroticism ( how easily you ruffle?) On the basis of these measurements, you can understand exactly what kind of person with dealing in what its desires and fears, finally, how he can lead. The problem was data collection: to understand something about the man, he was required to fill out an extensive questionnaire. But then came the Internet, and then Facebook, then Kozinski.

In 2008, a student from Warsaw Michal Kozinski started a new life: he entered the prestigious English Cambridge Center psychometrics, Cavendish Laboratory, the very first laboratory in the world of psychometrics. With his classmates he invented and launched a Facebook application called MyPersonality. The user is asked to respond to a long list of questions ( “Do you easily deduce from itself in a state of stress? Do you have a tendency to criticize others?”), Then received his “personality profile” and the creator of the application received invaluable personal information. Instead of the expected data on a dozen classmates, the creators received information on hundreds, thousands, and then millions of people. Two doctoral collected thus the largest “harvest” of the data in the history of psychological research.

The process that Kozinski associates developed over the next few years, is quite simple. Firstly, it obtains a list of test questions online test. From the responses to it, scientists calculate the personal values of the test. Further, Kozinski with the team studied the effects of the test: huskies and repost to Facebook, as well as gender, age and place of residence. So researchers are due. A simple analysis of the data on the network can get unusual conclusions. For example, if a man is subscribed to a page MAC cosmetics brand, it is a high probability of gay. On the contrary, a strong indicator of heterosexuality – if a person Like hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan in New York. Fan Lady Gaga is very likely an extrovert, and the person putting “like” philosophical post – introvert.

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

Kozinski and his colleagues constantly perfected its model. In 2012, Kozinski proved that the analysis of 68 likes on Facebook is enough to determine the subject’s skin color (95% probability), his homosexuality (88% probability) and the commitment of the Democratic or the Republican Party of the USA (85% probability). But the process goes further: intellectual development, religious preferences, addiction to alcohol, smoking or drugs. These even allowed to know whether the subject’s parents divorced before his age or not. The model has been so good that it became possible to predict the subject’s answers to certain questions. Drunk with success, Kozinski went on: model could soon get to know the person better after ten studied likes than his colleagues. After 70 likes – are better than one. After 150 likes – it is better than the parents. After 300 likes – better than a partner. With an even greater amount of learning activities can be found on the man better than himself. On the day when Kozinskiy published an article about his model, he received two calls: the complaint and a job offer. Both calls were from companies Facebook.

Only for friends

Now on Facebook, you can mark their positions as public and private, “podzamochnye”: In the second case, they can view only a certain circle of friends. But for data collectors and is not a problem. If Kozinskiy always asked for the agreement of Facebook users, current tests require access to personal information as a prerequisite for their passage.

But it’s not just about grades, “like” in Facebook: Kozinski and the team can evaluate people on Big Five criteria based on their userpic pictures in social networks. Or even among friends: a good index of extraversion! But we also hand over personal data when we are not in the network. A motion sensor in the smartphone shows whether we hand waving to him how far we go (correlated with emotional instability). As Kozinski notes smartphone – it’s a huge psychological questionnaire, which we wittingly or unwittingly fill. Most importantly, it works in the opposite direction: you can not only create a psychological portrait of the data, you can look for the right among these portraits. For example, worried about dad, angry introverts undecided Democrat supporters. In fact, search engine Kozinskiy invented by the people.

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

Worldwide network for it always seemed heaven-sent. You always want to “return”, “share”. This is the spirit of a new generation, a new era without physical boundaries. But what happens, thought Kozinski, if someone decides to take advantage of this search engine for people system to manipulate them? He begins to put warnings on all of its scientific publications. Warnings that his methods “may threaten the well-being, freedom and even the lives of people.” But no one, it seems, did not realize what he is.

Around this time, in early 2014, to Kosinski asked the young assistant professor named Alexander Kogan. He had a request from a certain company, which is interested in the method of Kosinski. The proposal was to analyze the psychometric by 10 million US Facebook users. For what purpose, the source did not say for reasons of confidentiality. Kozinski first agreed, we are talking about large sums for the benefit of his institute, but then began to delay the agreement. As a result, it is squeezed out of Kogan’s company name: SCL, Strategic Communications Laboratories ( «Laboratory of Strategic Communication”). Kozinski Googled the company name. “We are a global company to manage election campaigns”, – reads the company’s website, offering marketing based on psychology and logic. Focus on the impact of the outcome of the election. Kozinski puzzled clicked on the site pages, wondering what this firm can be engaged in the United States.

What Kozinskiy at that time I did not know: for SCL is a complicated enterprise system, tied to the “tax havens”: this was later shown in “Panama documents” and revelations of Wikileaks. Part of this system is responsible for the crisis in developing countries, other NATO helped to develop methods of psychological manipulation of Afghan citizens. One of the subsidiaries of the SCL – is the same Cambridge Analytica, an ominous small company, has organized an Internet campaign in support Brexit and Trump.

Kozinski does not know anything about this, but I suspect that something was wrong. After seeing the study, he learned that Alexander Kogan created a secret company that does business with SCL. The document, which is available in Das Magazin, it follows that the SCL has received information about the method because of Kosinski Kogan hands. Suddenly it dawned on Kosinski that Kogan could be copied or re-build his system in order to sell its political consultants from the SCL. The scientist immediately breaks the connection with Kogan and inform about the situation of his institute’s chief. Inside the institute brewing conflict, the establishment of fears for his reputation. Kogan moved to Singapore, got married and started to call himself Doctor Spectrum. Kozinski moved to the United States, started work at Stanford.

More than a year all is quiet, but in November 2015 the leader of the radical supporters Brexit Nigel Farage announced that it connects to the site with their online campaign some company specializing in Big Data, namely, Cambridge Analytica. The key competence of the company: political marketing of a new type – the so-called “mikrotargeting” – based on the “method of the ocean.”

Kozinski is starting to get a lot of letters – given the word “Cambridge”, “Ocean” and “analyst”, many people think that he was somehow connected with it. But only if he learns about the existence of such a company. With horror he scans the company’s website. A nightmare come true: his methodology is used in the great political game.

In July 2016, after a referendum on Brexit, on his head begin to fall in the curse. Like, look at what you did! Every time Kosinski has to justify and prove that to the company, he has nothing.

First Brexit, then Trump

It’s been ten months. On the calendar, September 19, 2016, in the US election campaign is in full swing. Hall New York Hotel Grand Hyatt, executed in dark blue tones, filled with riffs: playing song Bad Moon Rising band Creedence Clearwater Revival. Passes Annual Concordia Summit, World Economic Forum in miniature. Invited powers that even the current president of Switzerland Johann Schneider-Ammann. “Please welcome Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica Director” – will hear a pleasant female voice. At the scene rises a tall man in a dark suit. The hall is silence. Many already know that they face a new digital-specialist Trump. “Soon you’ll call me Mister Brexit», – mysteriously Trump wrote in his Twitter a few weeks earlier. Indeed, political analysts have already written about the similarities while programs at the Trump and the UK release of supporters of the EU. And only a few people knew about the relationship with Trump obscure Cambridge Analytica.

Until then, digital-campaign Trump was more or less of one person: Brad Parskeyla. Marketing enthusiast and founder of one of the failed start-up, he has created for Trump simple website for $ 1,500. 70-year-old Trump is hardly a person in the digital age: its not even a desktop computer. As one told his personal assistant, there is not even such a thing as an email from Trump. Sama assistant taught it to the smartphone – with whom he has since pours streams of thoughts on Twitter.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was based on the heritage of Barack Obama as the first “president of social networks.” She had the address lists of the Democratic Party, millions of subscribers, the Google support and Dreamworks. When in June 2016 Trump hired Cambridge Analytica, many in Washington Scorch mine. Foreign dudes in suits, who do not understand anything in this country? Really?

“It is an honor for me, ladies and gentlemen, to tell you now about the power of Big Data and psychometrics in the election campaign”, – he said at the summit of the Knicks. Behind him, at that moment there was a slide with his company logo: an image of the brain made up of networks, like a map. “A couple of months ago Ted Cruz was one of the least of approved candidates – said the blonde with an English accent, but so that the Americans were present felt like a Swiss who hear literary German. – Only 40% of the electorate to know his name. ” All those present remembered the story of the rapid rise of a conservative senator Cruz, perhaps the most inexplicable event race. The last of the major opponents of Trump in the GOP literally popped out of nowhere. “Well, how did it happen?” – Inquired the Knicks. In late 2014 Ccambridge Analytica entered in the electoral campaign in the United States is as an adviser Ted Cruz, who financed the billionaire Robert Mercer. Until then, the Knicks claimed, election campaigns were conducted on demographic criteria: “a stupid idea, if seriously think about it: all women get the same message across, because they are of the same sex, all blacks get another message, on the basis of their race.” So amateurish way (and then even Nixx can not add anything) campaigned Clinton team: divide society into homogeneous groups formally suggested by sociologists. The very same that until the end gave her the victory.

Then click the Knicks to another slide: five persons, each corresponds to a particular personality profile, the Big Five dimensions. “We are in Cambridge Analytica have developed a model that allows to calculate the identity of every adult citizen of the United States,” – continues the Knicks. In the hall of silence. The marketing success of Cambridge Analytica is based on three pillars. This is a psychological behavioral analysis, based on the “ocean models” Big Data learning and targeted advertising. This means personalized advertising and such advertising, which is as close as possible adapts to the nature of the individual consumer.

Knicks sincerely explains how his company is doing (the lecture is available on YouTube). His firm buys personal data from all possible sources: the inventory lists, bonus programs, telephone directories, club cards, newspaper subscriptions, medical data. In the United States may buy almost any personal data. If you want to know, for example, where women-Jewess live, you can safely buy a database. Then Cambridge Analytica crosses the data with lists of registered supporters GOP and data Laika-repost to Facebook – it turns a personal profile on the “method of the ocean.” Because digital data suddenly arise people with fears, aspirations and interests – and with the addresses of residence.

The procedure is identical to the model developed by Kosinski. Cambridge Analytica also uses the IQ-tests and other small applications, to obtain meaningful huskies from Facebook users. And the company Nix does from what Kozinski admonished: “We have psychogram all adult Americans, is 220 million people. Our control center looks like, I beg your attention, “- said the Knicks by clicking the slides. Appears map of Iowa, where Ted Cruz gathered an unexpectedly large number of votes in the primaries. The map can be seen hundreds of thousands of small dots: red and blue, according to party colors. Knicks builds criteria. Republicans – and blue spots disappear. Still undecided – points becomes smaller. Men – even less, and so on. As a result, there is the name of one man: age, location, interests and political preferences. But Cambridge Analytica treats individuals their message across?

In another presentation Nix told as an example the law on the free flow of weapons “to the fearful people with high levels of neuroticism, we present arms as a source of security. Here, on the left-hand picture shows a burglar who breaks a window. A picture on the right we see a man with his son, who go on the field with their rifles into the sunset. Obviously, duck hunting. This picture is for the rich, extrovert conservatives. ”

How to keep Clinton’s electorate from voting

The contradictory nature Trump, his lack of principle and out of this whole Prorva different messages suddenly played into his hands: for each voter his message across. “Trump acts as the perfect opportunist algorithm that relies only on the reaction of the public”, – noted in August mathematician Kathy O’Neill. On the day of the third debate between Clinton Trump and Trump’s team will go to social networks (mainly, Facebook) over 175 thousand. Different variations of the messages. They differ only in the smallest details, as accurately as possible to psychologically adjust to the specific recipients of information: titles and subtitles, background color, use a photo or video in the post. Filigree performance allows messages resonate with tiny populations, said Das Magazin itself the Knicks: “In this way we can reach the relevant villages, neighborhoods or homes, even to specific people.” In the quarter, Little Haiti in Miami had launched information on the refusal of the Clinton Foundation to participate in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti – to dissuade residents to give their votes to Clinton. That was one purpose: to keep the electorate Clinton (for example, doubters leftists, blacks and young girls) from the ballot box, “suppress” their choice, in the words of one of Trump’s employees. We used the so-called “dark posts» Facebook: paid advertisements in the midst of news feeds that could occur only to certain groups of persons. For example, African Americans showed posts video of Clinton compared the black men with predators.

“My children will not be able to explain better what it means to billboard with the same message for everyone”, – concludes the Knicks his speech at the summit of the Concordia, thanks for your attention and descends from the stage.

As far as American society in this particular moment it is handled by experts Trump’s hard to say, because they are extremely rare attack on the central TV channels, and more often use social networks and digital TV. And while Clinton’s team, who worked on the patterns of sociologists, is in lethargy, in San Antonio, where is the “digital headquarters” Trump, there is, according to the Bloomberg reporter Sasha Issenberga, “second headquarters”. Total Cambridge Analytica dozen employees received from Trump in July to $ 100 thousand., In August, an additional $ 250 thousand., Another $ 5 million in September. According to the calculations of Nix, the total amount of payment for services amounted to $ 15 million.

But the ongoing activities, too radical: a July 2016 campaign volunteers Trump got an application that prompts political preferences and personality types of the inhabitants of a house. Accordingly, volunteers, agitators modified his conversation with the people on the basis of these data. The reverse reaction volunteers recorded in the same app – and the data sent directly to the analytical center of Cambridge Analytica.

The company allocates from 32 American citizens psycho, concentrating only on 17 states. And Kozinski found that men pokonniki MAC cosmetics are likely to be gay, in Cambridge Analytica proved that the adherents of the American automobile industry are clearly potential supporters Trump. Among other things, these discoveries have helped Trump to understand what the message where it is best used. The decision to focus the election headquarters in recent weeks to Michigan and Wisconsin was made on the basis of data analysis. The candidate has become a model system application.

What does Cambridge Analytica in Europe?

But it was how much influence on the election result psychometry? Cambridge Analytica is in no hurry to present evidence of the success of his campaign. It is possible that this general question unanswered. While here, there is one fact: thanks to support Cambridge Analytica Ted Cruz turned from nothing into a serious rival in the primaries Trump. That increase in votes in rural areas. This is a reduction of electoral activity of blacks. Even the fact that Trump has spent on the project so little money, can talk about the effectiveness of personalized promotion. And even the fact that he put three-quarters of the advertising budget into the digital realm. Facebook has become a perfect weapon and the best helper in the elections, how to write in Twitter is one of the companions of Trump. By the way, in Germany antielitarnaya “Alternative for Germany” on Facebook has more subscribers than the leading party of the CDU and SPD together.

In addition, in no way it can not be said that, sociologists, statisticians, lost the elections because much wrong with their predictions. The contrary is true: Statistics won but only those that use the latest methods. Joke of the story: Trump constantly criticized this science, but won thanks largely to her.

The second winner – a company Cambridge Analytica. Published main conservative speaker Breitbart Steve Bannon is also a member of the board of directors of the company. Recently, he was appointed a senior strategist in the team Trump. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, an activist of the French “National Front” party leader and niece, already gleefully announced the cooperation with a company in the domestic corporate video which depicts a meeting on the theme “Italy”. According to Nix, now they are interested customers from all over the world. There have already been requests for cooperation from Switzerland and Germany.

All these watches and Kozinski from his office at Stanford. After the elections in the United States at the University of everything is upside down. On developments Kozinskiy answer the sharpest weapon of the available researcher: scientific analysis. Together with his colleague Sandra Matz he conducted a series of tests, the results of which will soon be published. Some of these findings, which ucheny shared with Das Magazin, shocking. For example, the psychological targeting, similar to that used in Cambridge Analytica, increase the number of clicks on the advertisement in Facebook 60%. The probability that after seeing personalized ads people move to action (buy this or that thing, or vote for the right candidate) increased by 1400%.

Now the world is 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. Now he again gets a bunch of complaints about the working post. “No, – said Kozinski. – There is not my fault. It is not I built a bomb, I just showed that they exist. ”

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