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Big Data, Bigger Problems

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Posted on May 19 2018


Big Data

    too Big to Fail.


    How to steal an election 101...



    Clearly Cambridge Analytica/SCL Group (CA/SCL) have endured a protracted and brutal public shellacking, particularly in the global Court of  Public Opinion.  This once thriving big data company, had The Who’s who of GOP clients, yet through their own actions and arrogance will henceforth be known as a pariah. Never forget:


    • CA/SCL = Rebekah Mercer, Robert Mercer
    • KellyAnne Conway who brought them into the Trump Campaign.


    In the Court of Law and Chambers of Government, CA/SCL will soon be required to  answer for their businsss practices and -if- any Federal Election laws were broken. Again re-read the 2014 Bracewell Giuliani Memorandum, found here

    Some will argue that CA/SCL were unfairly singled out, while others will argue “good riddance”. What gets somewhat ignored are the sources and methods CA/SCL used and how their data-micro targeting model gave Trump an “advantage”. As a reminder Cambridge Analytica was just a single cog in the Trump/Kushner/Parscale Project Alamo Wheel;


    • Experian PLC,
    • Datalogix,
    • Epsilon
    • Acxiom Corporation
    • NRA membership rolls
    • RNC Database 


    Before we dive into the Big Data Project Alamo Ocean, let’s drill down a bit more on Cambridge Analytica’s “tools” aka “suite of services” that the Trump Campaign used to “win” the 2016 election. When CA/SCL filed for Bankruptcy, I found it curious that they had  TV “content” providers, a fiber company and multiple telecom companies listed as creditors. Upon closer examination, it became obvious that some of these creditors are linked by way of CA/SCL portfolio of services they provided to clients like Donald J Trump for president.




    Cambridge Analytica 🚩 LiveSpend

    LiveSpend appears to be a dashboard, where customers track their advertising dollars across multiple platforms and provided real time Return on (advertising/marketing) Investments. 


    LiveSpend cuts through the clutter to reveal the true ROI of your campaigns. It compiles all relevant data in one place, makes connections between key metrics and presents all of your information in an easy-to-manage dashboard, with exportable and embeddable widgets that are perfect for your business needs.



    When you drill down on LiveSpend you quickly realize part of the feature of this ROI tracking service is, embedded widgets on various partner platforms. Also of note the “integrated” platform partners, multiple are listed as creditors in CA/SCL Bankruptcy. 


    Side note, in July 2017 RocketFuel was acquired by Sizmek article found, here Incidentally RocketFuel had its own scandal involving AI, Bots and ad placements on Breitbart. To wit just a few moths after Sizmek shelled out $125M to buy RocketFuel, Sizmek shuttered RocketFuel to “focus on ad transparency”. See November 2017, AdWeek Article here

    See Cambridge Analytica LiveSpend pend, live url, here  archived link, here


    Cambridge Analytica 🚩Validity


    By all appearances Validity married polling data and micro-targeting. What struck me was the following “claim”:

    ...These polls have a typical sample size of around 1,000 respondents, this commonly produces a statistical margin of error of around +/- 5%. As you can see from the chart CA Validity polls have a significantly smaller statistical margin of error and this gives you greater confidence when predicting large scale political events.


    It was actually this particular disclosure that caught my undivided attention, read the paragraph closely, because that’s the exact number the Trump Campaign touted:

     If you have your own customer database, or segments of the population previously identified, we can use this information to find new audiences. We match your data to our database of over 200 million Americans and utilize our proprietary psychographic and behavioral profiling to target people more effectively.


    Cambridge Analytica Validity’s live link here.

    Validity Big Data Polling, archived link here


    Cambridge Analytica 🚩SelecTV

    Of all of CA/SCL products this one seems like the most intrusive. CA/SCL states on their SelecTV product webpage has the capability of:


    Addressable Solution


    With our addressable solution, we advertise to select households with one-to-one precision and zero waste. Ads are served to select homes or zones within your target audience.

    • Reaches approximately half of the 118 million US homes with a TV.
    • Offered by six multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).
    • Available in all 210 designated market areas (DMAs).
    • Ad inventory is half linear and half Video-on-Demand (VOD).
    • Satellite providers offer an addressable national footprint.


    With our data-driven, linear solution, we place your ads where there is the highest density of your target audience. Research has shown that as your target audience increases in density so do conversion rates and incremental sales.

      • Geo-based or content-based ad targeting
      • Data is matched either to MVDPs or to TV set-top boxes for targeting.
      • Syndicated and proprietary cost information
      • Database of unbundled, available TV ad inventory
      • Platform for calculating optimal media plan for your needs
      • Experienced media buyers



    SelecTV live url, here archived webpage, here

    From a technical standpoint I’d like to know what the FCC, FTC and Members of Congress positions are on this particular product. Specifically Data Mining & digital Ad companies having the ability to tunnel in to Cable Set-Top-Boxes and lack of disclosure to millions of Americans that companies like CA/SCL did this with little to zero oversight or transparency. Much less disclosure to Americans


    It’s one thing to use data a person willingly gives to Facebook, it’s an entirely different issue to tunnel into set-top-boxes located inside a person’s home without seeking permission or disclosing it. Based on the SelecTV “marketing” they state they have the ability to “reach in” to 90 million Americans homes, unbeknownst to them. This also explains why various TV content prividers, Fiber Co & multiple Telecom Cimpanies are listed as creditors in their Bankruptcy filing. See filing here


    Cambridge Analytica 🚩Data Models

    I suppose you could say this is how the Trump Campaign sausage was made. This product page is marketed in part, as a targeted database.

    Thus far we’ve gone from; 50 million Facebook accounts (see MAN1 PAC Casestudy, here), 90 million American TV viewers, to 200 million voter database to 220 million Americans.

    Link to CA/SCL Data Models can be found, here archived link, here 

     Explore our data universe

    Cambridge Analytica offers a range of enhanced audience segments drawn from our national database of over 220 million Americans. These segments can be used individually or together to power highly targeted cross-channel audience engagement.


    Voter Data pages 1 & 2

    It is imperative that lawmakers ask how did CA/SCL obtain this data. The voter history and party affliation is problematic because that data is managed by the Secretary of State for each state, and requires users to pay for the data.



    Pages 3-4 Voter Demographics;


    The only tangible disclosure of how CA/SCL obtained Data can be found under the Veterans section. Which reads in part:


    People who live in households with a military veteran, based on survey response data, purchase information and publicly available tax exemption data.




    Pages 5-6 CA/SCL goes full Steve Bannon:

    In which we get an inside inside glimpse of Party tribalism at its very worst and how it’s corrosive to our democracy. The Ideology and Issues section reads like a road map of what the Trump Administration’s priorities are. Nothing is these sections resembles inclusion, expanding the party’s tent or “Making America Great Again”. In all seriousness when did America stop veins great? Oh wait...January 20, 2017.

    Also, I took the liberty of making a few cheeky edits because someone needed to.

     Link to CA/SCL 6 Page Data models pdf, here

    Here are a few questions I would like lawmakers and enforcement agencies to ask as they begin to investigate CA/SCL:

    1. What evidence does CA/SCL have that indicated they lawfully purchased or obtained this data?
    2. If any of the data was not purchased can CA/SCL explain the chain of custody of the data they obtained and any conditions or restrictions  bound to the data by the orginal owner?
    3. Explain the who/what/when/how/why the data came into CA/SCL possession?
    4. Please disclose if any of this data was used by a subsidiary org under the SCL Group corporate hierarchy and was any of this data sold to a 3rd or 4th party?
    5. Specifically was this data sold to other larger data-mining companies and if so did CA/SCL obtain the permission of the users or orginal data holder?
    6. If the data was “misappropriated” or purchased what were the terms and conditions of the data?
    7. Was any of this data sold or given to Russia, China, Iran or North Korea?
    8. When will Congress make a criminal referral to the Dept of Justice?  


    Per the CA/SCL written and oral Senate Testimony, Mr. Wylie testified that CA/SCL used hackers (see pages 3-8 in his written statement) and data WAS given to Russia via Project Ripon, see entry here

    If this data was used in part to amplify information warfare, in the form of disinformation why have lawmakers relinquished their constitutional authority and not inacted reasonable data privacy laws? When will lawmakers introduce bills to shore up data privacy & protections for Americans? What type of regulations will be codified to ensure minimal foreign interference while holding American Social Media Companies accountable?

    And lastly for the love of Nancy, please stop saying collusion. It’s conspiracy, possibly sedition, possibly are the actual statutes:


    And then of course Bannon’s subterfuge, trying to minimize the totality of this scandal.

    Like I said I have many many questions and I’m sure you do too. -Spicy

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