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Latest news, sport, business, comment, analysis and reviews from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice
‘I created Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower

For more than a year we’ve been investigating Cambridge Analytica and its links to the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK and Team Trump in the US presidential election. Now, 28-year-old Christopher Wylie goes on the record to discuss his role in hijacking the profiles of millions of Facebook users in order to target the US electorate

The first time I met Christopher Wylie, he didn’t yet have pink hair. That comes later. As does his mission to rewind time. To put the genie back in the bottle.

By the time I met him in person, I’d already been talking to him on a daily basis for hours at a time. On the phone, he was clever, funny, bitchy, profound, intellectually ravenous, compelling. A master storyteller. A politicker. A data science nerd.

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Sat, 17 Mar 2018 18:00:42 GMT
Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach

Whistleblower describes how firm linked to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon compiled user data to target American voters

How Cambridge Analytica’s algorithms turned ‘likes’ into a political tool

The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

A whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how Cambridge Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements.

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Sat, 17 Mar 2018 13:18:00 GMT
Staff claim Cambridge Analytica ignored US ban on foreigners working on elections
In the 2014 midterm elections and the Trump campaign, firm was staffed mainly by young Britons and Canadians

Cambridge Analytica employed non-American citizens to work on US election campaigns in apparent violation of federal law, despite receiving a legal warning about the risks.

The company’s responsibilities under US law were laid out in a lawyer’s memo to the company’s vice-president, Steve Bannon, British CEO Alexander Nix and Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire owner Robert Mercer, in July 2014. It made it clear that most senior and mid-level positions involving strategy, planning, fundraising or campaigning needed to be filled by US citizens.

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Sat, 17 Mar 2018 22:00:45 GMT
Cambridge Analytica: links to Moscow oil firm and St Petersburg university
Data company gave briefing to Moscow firm Lukoil, and the lecturer who developed the crucial algorithm worked for St Petersburg university

Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University academic who orchestrated the harvesting of Facebook data, had previously unreported ties to a Russian university, including a teaching position and grants for research into the social media network, the Observer has discovered. Cambridge Analytica, the data firm he worked with – which funded the project to turn tens of millions of Facebook profiles into a unique political weapon – also attracted interest from a key Russian firm with links to the Kremlin.

Energy firm Lukoil, which is now on the US sanctions list and has been used as a vehicle of government influence, saw a presentation on the firm’s work in 2014. It began with a focus on voter suppression in Nigeria, and Cambridge Analytica also discussed “micro-targeting” individuals on social media during elections.

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Sat, 17 Mar 2018 21:59:45 GMT
How Cambridge Analytica turned Facebook ‘likes’ into a lucrative political tool

The algorithm used in the Facebook data breach trawled though personal data for information on sexual orientation, race, gender – and even intelligence and childhood trauma

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.

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.

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Sat, 17 Mar 2018 13:02:04 GMT
UK finance, power and water on highest alert as threat of Russian cyber reprisal grows
Britain’s infrastructure ready as intelligence service warns of risk of virtual strike by Moscow

Banks, energy and water companies are on maximum alert over the threat of a serious cyber-attack from Moscow as concern continues over the safety of Russian exiles in the UK.

Fears that Russia will target Britain’s critical national infrastructure have prompted round-the-clock threat assessments by the UK’s financial sector, energy firms and GCHQ, the UK’s largest intelligence agency, along with the security services MI5 and MI6.

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Sat, 17 Mar 2018 21:00:44 GMT
Trump lawyer calls for end to Russia investigation after McCabe firing
  • Attorney John Dowd responds to firing of Andrew McCabe
  • Ex-CIA chief Brennan calls Trump a ‘disgraced demagogue’

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer said on Saturday he hoped the firing of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe would prompt Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the Russia investigation, to shut down the inquiry.

John Dowd spoke hours after Trump gloated that the firing of McCabe marked a “great day for democracy”. His glee provoked a savage response from former CIA director John Brennan, who called him a “disgraced demagogue” headed for “the dustbin of history”.

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Sat, 17 Mar 2018 20:12:57 GMT
Secret Facebook page reveals violence at heart of forum for ‘football fans’
Fears grow over march of Football Lads Alliance in Birmingham as threatening posts are uncovered on invite-only space

The Football Lads Alliance, the group behind marches against what they call “Islamist extremists”, uses a secret Facebook page full of violent, racist and misogynistic posts, targeting Sadiq Khan and Diane Abbott, as well as playing down the crimes of the Finsbury Park mosque attacker, Darren Osborne.

The Observer has gained access to the FLA’s 65,000-strong Facebook group in the run-up to its planned march “against extremism” in Birmingham on 24 March, which anti-racists fear could be the UK’s biggest ever Islamophobic mobilisation.

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Sat, 17 Mar 2018 22:30:00 GMT
Pleas for safe passage for civilians trapped in eastern Ghouta

Doctors and civil leaders among signatories to open letter to the UN, demanding action to stop massacre by Syrian forces

Doctors and civilians in the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta have published open letters asking for their safe passage under the supervision of international guarantors, as forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad continue a military offensive that has lasted nearly a month and killed more than 1,500 civilians.

Their messages came as Assad’s forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, took control of two more towns in the region bordering the capital Damascus, which housed 300,000 civilians. A mass exodus of tens of thousands of men, women and children continues.

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Sat, 17 Mar 2018 21:46:41 GMT
Blizzard conditions expected to disrupt travel across UK

Flights cancelled as Met Office says subzero temperatures, snow and high winds likely to disrupt road and rail journeys

Blizzard conditions that could cause havoc on the roads have been forecast by the Met Office for Saturday night and Sunday morning. Yellow and amber ice and snow warnings are in effect for many parts of the UK as the “mini-beast from the east” brings more snow showers and freezing temperatures.

“Travel delays on roads are likely, stranding some vehicles and passengers. Some delays and cancellations to rail and air travel are likely,” the Met Office said.

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Sat, 17 Mar 2018 15:30:02 GMT

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