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How Cambridge Analytica works and turned ‘likes’ into political tool

How Cambridge analytica works

The algorithm at the heart of the Facebook data breach sounds almost too dystopian to be real. It trawls through the most apparently trivial, throwaway postings –the “likes” users dole out as they browse the site – to gather sensitive personal information about sexual orientation, race, gender, even intelligence and childhood trauma. So exactly how cambridge analytica works and why it turned like in to a real world political tool.

A few dozen “likes” can give a strong prediction of which party a user will vote for, reveal their gender and whether their partner is likely to be a man or woman, provide powerful clues about whether their parents stayed together throughout their childhood and predict their vulnerability to substance abuse. And it can do all this without delving into personal messages, posts, status updates, photos or all the other information Facebook holds.

how cambridge analytica works

Some results may sound more like the result of updated online sleuthing than sophisticated data analysis; “liking” a political campaign page is little different from pinning a poster in a window.

But five years ago psychology researchers showed that far more complex traits could be deduced from patterns invisible to a human observer scanning through profiles. Just a few apparently random “likes” could form the basis for disturbingly complex character assessments.

When users liked “curly fries” and Sephora cosmetics, this was said to give clues to intelligence; Hello Kitty likes indicated political views; “Being confused after waking up from naps” was linked to sexuality. These were just some of the unexpected but consistent correlations noted in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal in 2013. “Few users were associated with ‘likes’ explicitly revealing their attributes. For example, less than 5% of users labelled as gay were connected with explicitly gay groups, such as No H8 Campaign,” the peer-reviewed research found.

The researchers, Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell and Thore Graepel, saw the dystopian potential of the study and raised privacy concerns. At the time Facebook “likes” were public by default.


Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: ‘We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles’ How Cambridge Analytica works.

“The predictability of individual attributes from digital records of behaviour may have considerable negative implications, because it can easily be applied to large numbers of people without their individual consent and without them noticing,” they said.

“Commercial companies, governmental institutions, or even your Facebook friends could use software to infer attributes such as intelligence, sexual orientation or political views that an individual may not have intended to share.”

To some, that may have sounded like a business opportunity. By early 2014, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix had signed a deal with one of Kosinski’s Cambridge colleagues, lecturer Aleksandr Kogan, for a private commercial venture, separate from Kogan’s duties at the university, but echoing Kosinski’s work.

The academic had developed a Facebook app which featured a personality quiz, and Cambridge Analytica paid for people to take it, advertising on platforms such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

The app recorded the results of each quiz, collected data from the taker’s Facebook account – and, crucially, extracted the data of their Facebook friends as well.

The results were paired with each quiz-taker’s Facebook data to seek out patterns and build an algorithm to predict results for other Facebook users. Their friends’ profiles provided a testing ground for the formula and, more crucially, a resource that would make the algorithm politically valuable.

How Cambridge Analytica works

To be eligible to take the test the user had to have a Facebook account and be a US voter, so tens of millions of the profiles could be matched to electoral rolls. From an initial trial of 1,000 “seeders”, the researchers obtained 160,000 profiles – or about 160 per person. Eventually a few hundred thousand paid test-takers would be the key to data from a vast swath of US voters.

It was extremely attractive. It could also be deemed illicit, primarily because Kogan did not have permission to collect or use data for commercial purposes. His permission from Facebook to harvest profiles in large quantities was specifically restricted to academic use. And although the company at the time allowed apps to collect friend data, it was only for use in the context of Facebook itself, to encourage interaction. Selling data on, or putting it to other purposes, – including Cambridge Analytica’s political marketing – was strictly barred.

It also appears likely the project was breaking British data protection laws, which ban sale or use of personal data without consent. That includes cases where consent is given for one purpose but data is used for another.

The paid test-takers signed up to T&Cs, including collection of their own data, and Facebook’s default terms allowed their friends’ data to be collected by an app, unless their privacy settings allowed this. But none of them agreed to their data possibly being used to create a political marketing tool or to it being placed in a vast campaign database.

How Cambridge Analytica works

Kogan maintains everything he did was legal and says he had a “close working relationship” with Facebook, which had granted him permission for his apps.

Facebook denies this was a data breach. Vice-president Paul Grewal said: “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do, and we require the same from people who operate apps on Facebook. If these reports are true, it’s a serious abuse of our rules.”

Graphic to show key players in Cambridge Analytica story

The scale of the data collection Cambridge Analytica paid for was so large it triggered an automatic shutdown of the app’s ability to harvest profiles. But Kogan told a colleague he “spoke with an engineer” to get the restriction lifted and, within a day or two, work resumed.

Within months, Kogan and Cambridge Analytica had a database of millions of US voters that had its own algorithm to scan them, identifying likely political persuasions and personality traits. They could then decide who to target and craft their messages that was likely to appeal to them – a political approach known as “micro-targeting”.

Facebook announced on Friday that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and Kogan from the platform pending information over misuse of data related to this project.

Facebook denies that the harvesting of tens of millions of profiles by GSR and Cambridge Analytica was a data breach. It said in a statement that Kogan “gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels” but “did not subsequently abide by our rules” because he passed the information onto third parties.

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Best Mid Range Smartphone

The best mid range Smartphone phone of 2018 reviewed and rated

What constitutes as the best ‘mid-range’ phone has changed rather dramatically in recent years. With flagship phones like the iPhone XS Max and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comfortably pushing passed the £1000 mark, from a price perspective the goalposts have undoubtedly shifted in the same direction. So here are a comprehensive list of Best Mid Range Smartphone , click on the associated link to purchase or view Moree information too.  All us content creators ensure we bring you the very latest news and information in the world of tech and its new. So want to see what other have to offer after this post. Well head over to the following site, which I personally use too.

At the same time, there are new handsets taking a fresh approach – offering the best possible hardware at the lowest possible price – that also fit within what we would consider mid-range in 2018; handsets like the Pocophone F1, which offer flagship specs without the price-tag.

With these factors in mind, here you’ll find a rundown of phones that we think offer the best bang for your buck while costing around half as much as you would expect to pay for a 2018 flagship.

How we select the best budget smartphones

Just as with any of our other ‘best smartphone’ roundups, this list is designed to reflect the best that the current smartphone market has to offer based on constraints like price and feature-set. We review every phone we consider before it can be placed in a line-up such as this, slipping our SIM cards in and using each phone as our main device solidly for a week at the very minimum.

We test claims on performance and battery life with both real-world and artificial benchmarks, we trial new features and cast a scrutinous eye over every facet and flaw that these phones might possess, all in the pursuit of providing a clear, concise review of the latest smartphone to make your buying decision as easy as possible.

OnePlus 6T Best Mid Range Smartphone

Best Mid Range Smartphone
£409.95 View at eBay
£439.00 View at Amazon
£469.00 View at OnePlus

Pros

  • A huge leap in OnePlus design
  • Seriously fast
  • Fast Charge is still great
  • A well thought-out version of Android with great extras

Cons

  • Camera still needs improvement
  • Missing a few ‘flagship’ features

The OnePlus 6T is arguably the phone that demonstrates just how much OnePlus as a company has grown up in its short lifespan. While at the upper end in this mid-range roundup, starting at £499, the OnePlus 6T feels practically as much of a flagship as any iPhone or top-tier Samsung does.

Not only does it adopt a beautiful metal and glass design, and a notch-laden extended display, just like the rest of 2018’s flagships, it also offers some of the best smartphone performance on the market. There’s a cleanly-skinned Android 9.0 Pie experience with some meaningful tweaks and the company’s excellent Fast Charge technology. Making out one of the Best Mid Range Smartphone

The primary cameras are also a massive improvement on their predecessors, even if they still lag slightly behind the best in the business. There’s no headphone jack, however OnePlus has added a slick in-display fingerprint scanner that’s the final futuristic feature.

Pocophone F1

Best Mid Range Smartphone
£275.00 View at eBay
£310.00 View at Amazon Marketplace
£320.00 View at Amazon

Pros

  • Excellent value for money
  • Superb performance
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Decent cameras

Cons

  • MIUI for Poco will take some getting used to
  • Thick bezels
  • Plastic build
  • No NFC

Being supported by Chinese tech giant Xiaomi’s manufacturing infrastructure has allowed new player Pocophone to make a serious splash with its first handset, the Pocophone F1. For around $/£300 you get a liquid-cooled Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with at least 6GB of RAM, a huge 4000mAh battery, a decent notched Full HD+ display and a surprisingly good pair of AI-enhanced main cameras making this also one of the Best Mid Range Smartphone

The MIUI for Poco skinned Android experience will take a little getting used for anyone who hasn’t used a Xiaomi phone before, but the price/performance balance this handset strikes borders on astonishing.

It comes in three polycarbonate finishes (red, blue or black) or, if you’re willing to fork out a little more cash, the Kevlar-backed ‘Armored Edition’ seen above.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)

Pros

  • Great OLED screen
  • Solid value
  • Ultra-wide camera is fun

Cons

  • Weak GPU
  • Slow charging and no USB-C

The Samsung Galaxy A7  is a lower-cost alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9. It’s a compelling choice with some neat extras including an extra ultra-wide camera and a strong OLED screen; two things you’d rarely normally find at this price.

This is far from a gaming phone, though. The Galaxy A7 has a solid CPU, but its graphics chipset is among the weakest in this class and we’d recommend something else if you love mobile gaming.

The ultra-wide secondary camera is a great feature too, giving some variety to the shots you take. The main camera is perfectly adequate, especially at the £309 price.

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Honor 10

£324.99 View at eBay
£289.00 View at Appliances Direct
£289.00 View at Laptopsdirect

Pros

  • Sleek design
  • Powerful hardware
  • Good value

Cons

  • EMUI Android skin is bloated
  • Some performance bugs

Honor has released a lot of great value-for-money smartphones in 2018 but its latest flagship, the Honor 10, is the best. It’s a stylish and capable smartphone that gives you most of what the pricier Huawei P20 does for under £400.

You get dual AI-enhanced cameras set within the phone’s eye-catching ‘Aurora’ reflective glass back, fast charging and the same Kirin 970 processor that powers Huawei’s current top smartphones, complete with NPU (neural processing unit) for AI-based tasks.

The company’s EMUI software experience is highly customisable but might be the biggest issue as it also brings with it a few bugs and a little slow-down from time to time. Nothing some focussed software updates can’t fix, though.

Nokia 7 Plus

£246.25 View at eBay
£279.95 View at John Lewis

Pros

  • Big, bright screen
  • Impressive battery life
  • Android One has potential

Cons

  • Lots of app crashes and software bugs
  • Could do with some design tweaks

A big display, a big battery, lossless optical zoom on its primary dual camera and a clean and up-to-date Android One experience make the Nokia 7 Plus an easy recommendation.

One of HMD Global’s best phones since licensing the Nokia brand, the Nokia 7 Plus left us pleasantly surprised by what it brought to the table, considering it can be had for under £350. The polycarbonate body of the Plus comes with the Nokia line’s signature copper accents, helping it stand out from the crowd. There’s a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor too.

The Snapdragon 660 processor is more conservative than what the majority of phones in this lineup come packing, but paired with clean Android One software onboard, this phone feels just as fast and fluid as any more premium handset. Don’t forget to share this post if you found it useful. Best Mid Range Smartphone

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