Cambridge Analytica, Trump, and online personality tests

How many times have I raged to friends about the naïveté of those who burp-up all manner of personal details to cutesy Facebook-based personality tests? Many times, dear reader, many times. “Which Downton Abbey Character Are You?” was one of my most painful forehead-slapping moments. All it would take is answering a dozen profiling questions and offering up personal details of all my Facebook contacts, and the app would give me a cute picture to post which would tell my friends what they already know: Maggie Smith.

Now it turns out that Trump’s pal Steve Bannon conspired with Cambridge Analytica in the use of a phony Facebook questionnaire called “Your Digital Life”. Its real purpose was to profile US voters, to sneakily tailor anti-Clinton, pro-Trump Facebook content it a way that manipulated individual biases revealed by the questionnaire.

Bannon and Cambridge Analytica paid 200,000 Facebook suckers to take the test, in so doing opened up the data of each sucker’s Facebook friends — totaling millions of users. Maybe you and me.

The Trump campaign paid $6 million to Cambridge Analytica, according to yesterday’s Washington Post, but denies ever using their data (sound familiar? Sort of like paying $130,000 to silence a woman Trump didn’t have sex with, or paying out $25 million to Trump University fraud victims because Trump didn’t commit fraud). The facts are not yet in to prove a direct link between Bannon’s evildoing and Trump’s electoral advantage, but it’s only a matter of time.

So, don’t enable evildoers by being naïve. Facebook has always been free. When a “product” is offered to you for free, you’re the real product.

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