Cambridge Analytica Is Not Alone: i360 and Data Trust Disastrous for Democracy

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SHARMINI PERIES: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

The scandal surrounding the activities of the data mining company Cambridge Analytica and its use of personal data from 50 million Facebook users continue to unfold. The whistleblower and former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie testified before Britain’s Parliament on Tuesday.

CHRISTOPHER WYLIE: 2016 was, you know, where I started looking at what this company was actually doing in the United States, and you know, coming to appreciate that the projects that I was working on may have had a much wider impact than I initially anticipated it would. And after Donald Trump got inaugurated, very shortly after that, that’s when he started working with Carol at the Guardian on, on reporting, and reporting some of the things that the company is doing. So I don’t think that military-style information operations is conducive for any democratic process, whether it’s a U.S. presidential or a local council race.

SHARMINI PERIES: There Wylie outlined how the company manipulated elections in Nigeria. He also said that Israeli software company Black Cube was involved and called the whole effort a privatized colonizing operation. A former Facebook manager also came forward recently saying that hundreds of millions of Facebook users probably had their data stolen in ways similar to the Cambridge Analytica case.

Someone who has been warning about the extensive use and misuse of private data for manipulating and winning elections is Greg Palast. In a recent article he points out that Cambridge Analytica, which was owned in part by right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer, is a relative newcomer to this type of work, Palast says. Other companies such as i360, which is owned by Koch Brothers, and Data Trust, which is operated by Karl Rove, have been more extensive in their operations. Here’s a clip from one of Greg Palast’s videos about the story.

VIDEO: Data Trust, tracking over 1800 things about you, Mr. Voter, including the last time you downloaded porn, to whether you ordered Chinese food just before you voted.

I think that’s creepy.

Mark Sweetland is an expert for companies that live and die by their databases. i360, Data Trust have literally thousands of data points on you, Greg Palast, and on me, and on everybody who’s watching this film.

Wait, what’s this i360?

Their databases include trillions of data points on hundreds of millions of people.

SHARMINI PERIES: Joining me now to take a closer look at the world of private data mining is Greg Palast. He is an investigative reporter who has written for many publications, among them Rolling Stone and The Guardian. He also is the author of The New York Times best seller and the film with the same name, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.” Thanks for joining us, Greg.

GREG PALAST: Glad to be with you again.

SHARMINI PERIES: So Greg, most of the Cambridge Analytica story is about how the company gathered private information in order to generate psychological profiles and create targeted social media campaigns. However, you say that the things that the Koch brothers and i360 and Karl Rove’s company Data Trust, they are involved in more dangerous activity. What exactly are they doing, and why is it more dangerous?

GREG PALAST: Well, there’s really four big database operations that I’m very worried about. Cambridge Analytica is the newest, and probably the least sophisticated.

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