Facebook allowed the Obama campaign to access the personal data of users during the 2012 campaign because they supported the Democratic candidate according to a high ranking staffer.
Carol Davidsen, who worked as the media director at Obama for America and has spoken about this in the past, explained on Twitter that she and her team were able to ingest massive amounts of information from the social network after getting permission from Facebook users to access their list of friends.
‘Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing,’ wrote Davidsen.
Carol Davidsen, (left) who worked as the media director at Obama for America, claims Facebook allowed them to mine American users’ profiles in 2012 because they were supportive of the Democrats
US President Barack Obama on the campaign trail in 2012 – when the mining allegedly occurred
She wrote that, not only did Facebook not try to stop them, but the company said they’d made a special exception for them.
‘They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,’ she tweeted.
Davidsen was then careful to note: ‘I am also 100% positive that Facebook activity recruits and staffs people that are on the other side.’
Davidsen posted this in the wake of the uproar over Cambridge Analytica, and their mining of information for the Trump campaign.
Hillary Clinton meanwhile refused to access the API that had been created by the Obama campaign with this Facebook information.
‘I worked on all of the data integration projects at [Obama for America]. This was the only one that felt creepy, even though we played by the rules, and didn’t do anything I felt was ugly, with the data,’ stated Davidsen.
The revelations, if true, mean that Obama’s campaign used similar tactics to those of Cambridge Analytica, which worked on President Donald Trump’s election campaign, and reportedly harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users.
Members of Congress called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about Facebook’s actions on Monday in the wake of the revelation.
Meanwhile, British privacy regulators are seeking a warrant to search the offices of the U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica as both US and European lawmakers demand an explanation of how the consulting firm gained access to the data.
The news also saw Facebook shares closed down nearly 7.0 percent on Monday, wiping nearly $40 billion off its market value as investors worried that new legislation could damage the company’s advertising business.
Members of Congress called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about Facebook’s actions on Monday in the wake of the revelations about Cambridge Analytica
Facebook said on Monday it had hired forensic auditors from the firm Stroz Friedberg to investigate and determine whether Cambridge Analytical still had the data.
‘Auditors from Strop Fried berg were on site at Cambridge Analytic’s London office this evening,’ the company said in a statement late Monday. ‘At the request of the UK Information Commissioner´s Office, which has announced it is pursuing a warrant to conduct its own on-site investigation, the Strop Fried berg auditors stood down.’
Yet the Obama campaign may have harvested information from millions during the 2012 run.
Of course, the biggest difference is that those signing up to the Obama campaign did so knowingly. While with Cambridge Analytic, users were told they were contributing to an academic research project. That information was then passed to the Trump campaign.
But that doesn’t mean the friends of the Obama supporters consented to have their details used in their data mining.
The New York Times Magazine reported how the campaign had a list of a million people who had signed into the campaign website through Facebook.
This information obtained by Cambridge Analytica is said to have been used to help elect President Donald Trump in the US, as well as to boost the Brexit campaign in the UK. CEO Alexander Nix has said the firm was ‘always acquiring more’ data
To do so, they were prompted to agree to grant the campaign permission to access their Facebook friends list, photos and other personal information.
Another prompt, which most people also agreed to, asked for them to grant access to their news feed.
Through these prompts, the campaign had access to millions of people, and their interests, and friends – who they could note down as potential donors, unregistered voters and persuadable votes – to target in specific campaigns.
One staffer said that once a supporter signed up through Facebook, it would take them mere seconds to go through their friends’ lists, match them with votes lists, and then they would go through photos – trying to weed out old girlfriends and college friends who could share their political beliefs.
The campaign reportedly mined data from 15 million Facebook users, which triggered alarms at the social media giant, but the company always decided that the campaign had not violated its privacy and data rules.
Facebook did not respond to reporters’ requests for comment.
WHAT DOES FACEBOOK KNOW ABOUT YOU?
Facebook uses personal data it collects on members using their on-site activity, location settings and internet connection to target its ads.
The firm uses 98 data points to create ‘complete consumer profiles’.
Some of this data is taken from your Faebook profile information, but the social network watches online activity for the rest.
It can ‘see’ virtually every website you visit if you are logged into Facebook.
The 98 data points it tracks are:
6. Education level
7. Field of study
9. Ethnic affinity
10. Income and net worth
11. Home ownership and type
12. Home value
13. Property size
14. Square footage of home
15. Year home was built
16. Household composition
17. Users who have an anniversary within 30 days
18. Users who are away from family or hometown
19. Users who are friends with someone who has an anniversary, is newly married or engaged, recently moved, or has an upcoming birthday
20. Users in long-distance relationships
21. Users in new relationships
22. Users who have new jobs
23. Users who are newly engaged
24. Users who are newly married
25. Users who have recently moved
26. Users who have birthdays soon
28. Expectant parents
29. Mothers, divided by ‘type’ (soccer, trendy, etc.)
30. Users who are likely to engage in politics
31. Conservatives and liberals
32. Relationship status
35. Job title
36. Office type
38. Users who own motorcycles
39. Users who plan to buy a car (and what kind/brand of car, and how soon)
40. Users who bought auto parts or accessories recently
41. Users who are likely to need auto parts or services
42. Style and brand of car you drive
43. Year car was bought
44. Age of car
45. How much money user is likely to spend on next car
46. Where user is likely to buy next car
47. How many employees your company has
48. Users who own small businesses
49. Users who work in management or are executives
50. Users who have donated to charity (divided by type)
51. Operating system
52. Users who play canvas games
53. Users who own a gaming console
54. Users who have created a Facebook event
55. Users who have used Facebook Payments
56. Users who have spent more than average on Facebook Payments
57. Users who administer a Facebook page
58. Users who have recently uploaded photos to Facebook
59. Internet browser
60. Email service
61. Early/late adopters of technology
62. Expats (divided by what country they are from originally)
63. Users who belong to a credit union, national bank or regional bank
64. Users who investor (divided by investment type)
65. Number of credit lines
66. Users who are active credit card users
67. Credit card type
68. Users who have a debit card
69. Users who carry a balance on their credit card
70. Users who listen to the radio
71. Preference in TV shows
72. Users who use a mobile device (divided by what brand they use)
73. Internet connection type
74. Users who recently acquired a smartphone or tablet
75. Users who access the Internet through a smartphone or tablet
76. Users who use coupons
77. Types of clothing user’s household buys
78. Time of year user’s household shops most
79. Users who are ‘heavy’ buyers of beer, wine or spirits
80. Users who buy groceries (and what kinds)
81. Users who buy beauty products
82. Users who buy allergy medications, cough/cold medications, pain relief products, and over-the-counter meds
83. Users who spend money on household products
84. Users who spend money on products for kids or pets, and what kinds of pets
85. Users whose household makes more purchases than is average
86. Users who tend to shop online (or off)
87. Types of restaurants user eats at
88. Kinds of stores user shops at
89. Users who are ‘receptive’ to offers from companies offering online auto insurance, higher education or mortgages, and prepaid debit cards/satellite TV
90. Length of time user has lived in house
91. Users who are likely to move soon
92. Users who are interested in the Olympics, fall football, cricket or Ramadan
93. Users who travel frequently, for work or pleasure
94. Users who commute to work
95. Types of vacations user tends to go on
96. Users who recently returned from a trip
97. Users who recently used a travel app
98. Users who participate in a timeshare