If you have not grasped the extent of this fiasco, it could be because it was late evening in the U.S. on Friday last and the weekend has dawned in most other parts of the world when this new broke.
In a nutshell, a Facebook app developed by one Dr. Aleksandr Kogan called “thisisyourdigitallife” had obtained user data through that app (which was originally built in 2014) by scraping data from the profiles of people who took the quiz as well as that of their friends—apparently allowed under Facebook’s policy for third-party apps at the time!!
On Friday, Facebook announced that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica from the site, which stops the latter buying ads or accessing Facebook data. This appeared to be a pre-emptive response to stories which broke over the weekend in The Observer and The New York Times, of how Cambridge Analytica acquired data on 50 million Facebook users without their consent. The stories came from interviews with Christopher Wylie – a whistleblower intimately connected with Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica is a British data analytics firm which helps political campaigns target voters online. The company (and its parent company SCL) claims to have built “5,000 data points on over 230 million American voters”allowing political campaigns to target voters susceptible to certain messages with precise accuracy.
This is the scariest part: Although only about 270,000 people took the survey, the New York Times reports, yet that Dr. Kogan was able to obtain data on 50 million users, probably through connections and other means!
“I’ve also seriously been asked if the FBI has reached out, if the two congressional committees in the United States have reached out, and if Parliament or any authorities in the UK have reached out. No one has—I suspect they realize I’m actually not a spy. Though if anyone does, I’d be more than happy to testify and speak candidly about the project,” Aleksandr Kogan wrote in an email that was obtained by CNN.
The question is how they acquired this data – and much of it is alleged to come from Facebook, without user consent.
AG Whitaker Alleged to Have Served on Board of WPM
The FBI is reportedly conducting a criminal investigation related to World Patent Marketing, a company that was shut down in 2017 after the Federal Trade Commission alleged that it operating “an invention-promotion scam” that tricked “thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.” According to recent reports, new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker served on its advisory board.
Alleged WPM Conduct
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission charged the operators of an invention-promotion scam, World Patent Marketing, with deceiving consumers and suppressing complaints about the company by using threats of criminal prosecution against dissatisfied customers. At the FTC’s request, a federal court temporarily halted the Florida-based scheme and froze its assets pending litigation.
“This case is about protecting innovators, the engine of a thriving economy,” said then Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen. “The defendants promised to promote people’s inventions and took thousands of dollars, but provided almost no service in return. Then they added insult to injury by threatening people who complained.”
According to the FTC, consumers paid an individual and various corporate entities thousands of dollars to patent and market their inventions based on bogus “success stories” and testimonials promoted by the defendants. But after they allegedly strung consumers along for months or even years, the defendants purportedly failed to deliver what they promised. Instead, many customers allegedly ended up in debt or lost their life savings with nothing to show for it.
WPM Threats of Legal Action
The FTC also alleged that the defendants used various unfair tactics, including threats of legal action, to discourage consumers from publishing truthful or non-defamatory negative reviews about the defendants and their services. According to FTC attorney Richard B. Newman, the agency reported that one customer who sought a refund and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau allegedly received a letter from the defendants’ lawyer. According to the FTC, the letter stated that seeking a refund was extortion under Florida law and, “since you used email to make your threats, you would be subject to a federal extortion charge, which carries a term of imprisonment of up to two years and potential criminal fines.”
WPM Settlement Order
In 2018, the defendants agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that bans them from the invention promotion business. Under the settlement order, the defendants are also banned from misrepresenting any good or service, and suppressing the availability of truthful negative comments or reviews by consumers. They are also prohibited from profiting from consumers’ personal information collected as part of the challenged practices, and failing to dispose of it properly.
A $25,987,192 judgment was imposed, which was partially suspended when $78,670 in frozen funds were transferred to the Commission and the individual defendant Cooper paid $976,330.
Whitaker’s Alleged Involvement
According to media reports, court filings indicate that Whitaker received regular payments of $1,875 from the company while serving as a member of its advisory board. It has also been reported that Whitaker sent a strongly worded email to a former customer in 2015 that had complained about the company. Whitaker is not a named as a defendant in the case against the company.
In a statement, a Justice Department spokeswoman said, “Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has said he was not aware of any fraudulent activity. Any stories suggesting otherwise are false.” In fact, FTC investigators did not obtain evidence or internal communications showing Whitaker knew about the company’s alleged bogus promises, according to those with firsthand knowledge of the matter. The receiver that oversaw the settlement confirmed, recently stating to The Washington Post that he has “no reason to believe that [Whitaker] knew of any of the wrongdoing.”
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Mueller To Deliver Report Soon, Public May Never See
US special counsel Robert Mueller could deliver the results of his investigation into whether there was collusion between members of US President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian Federation within the next seven days, according to sources within the DOJ.
Other possible Mueller targets with the “most exposure,” according to Vanity Fair’s sources, include political operative Roger Stone, whose role in the campaign was scrutinized in the special counsel probe over his correspondences with WikiLeaks.
“The possible exposure” in the case of Donald Trump Jr., according to the outlet, is that he may have perjured himself when he said that he had not alerted his father prior to his June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in New York City’s Trump Tower, from which music publicist Rob Goldstone had promised there would be “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Three sources with connections to the president’s legal team told the outlet that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is preparing a document to provide a counter-narrative to Mueller’s findings. “They don’t know what Mueller has, but they have a good idea, and they’re going to rebut it,” a Republican close to Giuliani said. Moscow denies interfering in the election and colluding with the Trump team.
According to POLITICO, the public, they say, shouldn’t expect a comprehensive and presidency-wrecking account of Kremlin meddling and alleged obstruction of justice by Trump — not to mention an explanation of the myriad subplots that have bedeviled lawmakers, journalists and amateur Mueller sleuths.
“That’s just the way this works,” said John Q. Barrett, a former associate counsel who worked under independent counsel Lawrence Walsh during the Reagan-era investigation into secret U.S. arms sales to Iran. “Mueller is a criminal investigator. He’s not government oversight, and he’s not a historian.”
Worse, the new acting AG Matt Whitaker tweeted approval of an NPR article suggesting that the public might never learn what special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation reveals because the attorney general might simply decline to release Mueller’s report.
MAGA Bomber Cesar Sayoc, Jr Was Trump Rally Celebrity Despite Being Criminal
Police have arrested a 56 year-old well-known #MAGA supporter named Cesar Sayoc, Jr. on suspicion of being the MAGA bomber who sent 12 pipe bombs to Democrats and Donald Trump critics. He was a well known figure in Trump Rallies, and considered a bit of a celebrity amongst those who attend the Rallies.
Cesar Altieri Sayoc also has arrest history in Hennepin County, Minnesota 2005, besides criminal records in New York and Florida.
Sayoc was taken into custody close to an auto parts store in Plantation, a suburb of Miami, around 10:30 Friday morning. He was traced by DNA evidence.
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