Cambridge Analytica, the firm that used Facebook user data to target political ads, may no longer exist — but a former employee turned data privacy advocate is fearful those same tactics may be at work for the 2020 election. Brittany Kaiser, a former Cambridge Analytica employee and the co-founder of the Own Your Data Foundation, is now releasing “tens of thousands” of documents that show insight into how similar companies may operate.
The Twitter account @HindsightFiles began releasing the documents on the first of the year. While originally anonymous, Kaiser was later revealed as the person behind the leaks of internal documents and emails from Cambridge Analytica. According to The Guardian, more than 100,000 documents will be released on the platform over the next few months.
“It’s so abundantly clear out electoral systems are wide open to abuse,” she told The Guardian. “I’m very fearful about what is going to happen in the US election later this year, and I think one of the few ways of protecting ourselves is to get as much information out there as possible.”
As Kaiser releases documents from her email and hard drive that show the workings of the analytics company, she’s not alone in her concern. Christopher Steele, the ex-British intelligence officer who authored the dossier suggesting President Trump’s ties with Russia, says the issue may only get worse in the 2020 election. “On our current trajectory these problems are likely to get worse, not better, and with crucial 2020 elections in America and elsewhere approaching, this is a very scary prospect. Something radical needs to be done about it, and fast,” he said.
Cambridge Analytica came under fire for obtaining the data of 87 million Facebook users without their permission through online quizzes. Investigations later showed the data analytics company used that data to target voters for Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The documents reveal Cambridge Analytica’s work in at least 68 countries between 2014 and 2018. Through the Hindsight is 2020 Twitter account, Kaiser is also sharing 2020 political ads that she claims “were psychographically targeted meaning they tapped into vote psyche via data collection.” Those ads, she claims, researched voter’s hopes and fears and designed and targeted those ads based on that research.
The Hindsight is 2020 account uses the tagline, “democracies around the world are being auctioned to the highest bidder.” The account, only opened on the first of the year, already has 16,500 followers.
After leaving the company shortly before the scandal broke, Kaiser has gone public with privacy warnings on several occasions. Along with testifying during the investigations, she was also part of the Netflix documentary The Great Hack and now runs the Own Your Data Foundation. Kaiser has previously also warned that Facebook quizzes are designed to mine user data.