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Brexit ad blitz data firm paid by Vote Leave broke privacy laws, watchdogs find

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joint investigation by watchdogs in Canada and British Columbia has found that Cambridge Analytica-linked data firm, Aggregate IQ, broke privacy laws in Facebook ad-targeting work it undertook for the official Vote Leave Brexit campaign in the UK’s 2016 EU referendum.

A quick reminder: Vote Leave was the official leave campaign in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. While Cambridge Analytica is the (now defunct) firm at the center of a massive Facebook data misuse scandal which has dented the company’s fortunes and continues to tarnish its reputation.

Vote Leave’s campaign director, Dominic Cummings — now a special advisor to the UK prime minister — wrote in 2017 that the winning recipe for the leave campaign was data science. And, more specifically, spending 98% of its marketing budget on “nearly a billion targeted digital adverts”.

Targeted at Facebook users.

The problem is, per the Canadian watchdogs’ conclusions, AIQ did not have proper legal consents from UK voters for disclosing their personal information to Facebook for the Brexit ad blitz which Cummings ordered.

Either for “the purpose of advertising to those individuals (via ‘custom audiences’) or for the purpose of analyzing their traits and characteristics in order to locate and target others like them (via ‘lookalike audiences’)”.

Oops.

Last year the UK’s Electoral Commission also concluded that Vote Leave breached election campaign spending limits by channeling money to AIQ to run the targeting political ads on Facebook’s platform, via undeclared joint working with another Brexit campaign, BeLeave. So there’s a full sandwich of legal wrongdoings stuck to the brexit mess that UK society remains mired in, more than three years later.

Meanwhile, the current UK General Election is now a digital petri dish for data scientists and democracy hackers to run wild experiments in microtargeted manipulation — given election laws haven’t been updated to take account of the outgrowth of the adtech industry’s tracking and targeting infrastructure, despite multiple warnings from watchdogs and parliamentarians.

Data really is helluva a drug.

The Canadian investigation cleared AIQ of any wrongdoing in its use of phone numbers to send SMS messages for another pro-Brexit campaign, BeLeave; a purpose the watchdogs found had been authorized by the consent provided by individuals who gave their information to that youth-focused campaign.

But they did find consent problems with work AIQ undertook for various US campaigns on behalf of Cambridge Analytica affiliate, SCL Elections — including for a political action committee, a presidential primary campaign and various campaigns in the 2014 midterm elections.

And, again — as we know — Facebook is squarely in the frame here too.

“The investigation finds that the personal information provided to and used by AIQ comes from disparate sources. This includes psychographic profiles derived from personal information Facebook disclosed to Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, and onward to Cambridge Analytica,” the watchdogs write.

“In the case of their work for US campaigns… AIQ did not attempt to determine whether there was consent it could rely on for its use and disclosure of personal information.”

The investigation also looked at AIQ’s work for multiple Canadian campaigns — finding fewer issues related to consent. Though the report states that in: “certain cases, the purposes for which individuals are informed, or could reasonably assume their personal information is being collected, do not extend to social media advertising and analytics”.

AIQ also gets told off for failing to properly secure the data it misused.

This element of the probe resulted from a data breach reported by UpGuard after it found AIQ running an unsecured GitLab repository — holding what the report dubs “substantial personal information”, as well as encryption keys and login credentials which it says put the personal information of 35 million+ people at risk.

Double oops.

“The investigation determined that AIQ failed to take reasonable security measures to ensure that personal information under its control was secure from unauthorized access or disclosure,” is the inexorable conclusion.

Turns out if an entity doesn’t have a proper legal right to people’s information in the first place it may not be majorly concerned about where else the data might end up.

The report flows from an investigation into allegations of unauthorized access and use of Facebook user profiles which was started by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC in late 2017. A separate probe was opened by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada last year. The two watchdogs subsequently combined their efforts.

The upshot for AIQ from the joint investigation’s finding of multiple privacy and security violations is a series of, er, “recommendations”.

On the data use front it is suggested the company take “reasonable measures” to ensure any third-party consent it relies on for collection, use or disclosure of personal information on behalf of clients is “adequate” under the relevant Canadian and BC privacy laws.

“These measures should include both contractual measures and other measures, such as reviewing the consent language used by the client,” the watchdogs suggest. “Where the information is sensitive, as with political opinions, AIQ should ensure there is express consent, rather than implied.”

On security, the recommendations are similarly for it to “adopt and maintain reasonable security measures to protect personal information, and that it delete personal information that is no longer necessary for business or legal purposes”.

“During the investigation, AIQ took steps to remedy its security breach. AIQ has agreed to implement the Offices’ recommendations,” the report adds.

The upshot of political ‘data science’ for Western democracies? That’s still tbc. Buckle up.

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Fake Facebook profile leaves Nelson auctioneer stressed and worried

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Fake Facebook profile leaves Nelson auctioneer stressed and worried

Lipscombe Auction House owner Warwick Savage with a fake Facebook account using his name he is trying to get taken down.

Martin De Ruyter/Stuff

Lipscombe Auction House owner Warwick Savage with a fake Facebook account using his name he is trying to get taken down.

Auctioneer Warwick Savage didn’t have a personal Facebook profile.

But someone pretending to be him set one up, and that person, or persons stole his identity and amassed 1500 friend by Friday – the vast majority of whom were none the wiser the man on the screen was not who they thought he was.

The profile first came to the attention of the Nelson auctioneer late last week, when a friend of his stepdaughter’s commented that she had accepted Savage’s friend request: “and she said ‘he doesn’t have a Facebook page. He doesn’t have a Facebook profile’. So all of a sudden it came to the forefront.”

What was bizarre about the fake profile is how sophisticated it was: few of Savage’s close friends twigged when sent a friend request.

READ MORE:
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The photos had been taken off the website of his business, Lipscombe Auction House, and the posts, promoting auctions, appeared legitimate. Lipscombe Auction House has a genuine Facebook page for the business and the fake and genuine pages looked similar.

On Friday after queries from Stuff meta removed the Facebook page for “for violating our policies”.

A spokesperson said it was “committed to safeguarding the integrity of our services, and worked hard to protect our community from fake accounts and other inauthentic behaviour.”

It continued to invest in AI to improve its enforcement and strengthen its review systems it said.

Someone has set up a fake account of auctioneer Warwick Savage and despite people contacting Facebook and telling them it was fake the social media company won’t take it down.

SUPPLIED/Nelson Mail

Someone has set up a fake account of auctioneer Warwick Savage and despite people contacting Facebook and telling them it was fake the social media company won’t take it down.

Savage was happy the page had finally been removed but frustrated it had taken so long for it to have occurred.

Savage had reported the profile to the police, who referred him to Netsafe. Multiple friends also wrote to Facebook asking for the page to be removed, only to receive the message that “ultimately, we decided not to take the profile down”.

“We take action on profiles that pose a danger to other people or that are harmful to the community,” the Facebook Support message read.

Savage said there should be more accountability from social media.

The profile appeared to have been uploaded on November 26, 2022, but the majority of the account activity had been this year, Savage said.

Several people who accepted his friend requests were Nelson City councillors, and other well known people in Nelson.

Someone has set up a fake account of Lipscombe Auction house owner Warwick Savage on facebook that now has over 1100 friends using information from his legitimate website.

SUPPLIED/Nelson Mail

Someone has set up a fake account of Lipscombe Auction house owner Warwick Savage on facebook that now has over 1100 friends using information from his legitimate website.

Before the media got involved Savage said there hadn’t appeared to be much interest from Facebook in doing anything about it.

“And I think it would be a huge worry for anybody. Because basically, they’ve stolen my identity.”

Savage said he was “obviously” concerned about reputational damage. But he was also concerned about having his business targeted.

“It all looks very harmless at the moment, but why would a person bother creating this to not have an end objective? Are messages going out to people there who are friends that aren’t nice messages?”

The situation has left him feeling “stressed”, he said, and particularly worried about the possibility of the person using his name posting something nasty.

“I don’t want to be going around trying to defend myself and Lipscombe’s to 1000 people,” he said.

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George Santos, Who Falsely Claimed His Grandparents Fled Hitler, Reportedly Joked About Killing “Jews and Blacks”

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George Santos, Who Falsely Claimed His Grandparents Fled Hitler, Reportedly Joked About Killing “Jews and Blacks”

One of George Santos’s biggest and most offensive lies was the one he told, on multiple occasions, about having grandparents who’d had to run for their lives during the Holocaust. In 2021, the then candidate claimed in a campaign video that his “grandparents survived the Holocaust.” Several months later, he told the Jewish News Syndicate: “I’m very proud of my grandparents’ story,” which he said included “fleeing Hitler.” Perhaps laying the groundwork for his explanation in the event he got caught in this specific fabrication, he told Fox News Digital in February: “For a lot of people who are descendants of World War II refugees or survivors of the Holocaust, a lot of names and paperwork were changed in name of survival.”

Like so many things that have come out of Santos’s mouth, the one about his grandparents and the Holocaust does not, in fact, appear to be true, as multiple genealogy records indicate his grandparents were born in Brazil and, according to one genealogist who spoke to CNN, “There’s no sign of Jewish and/or Ukrainian heritage and no indication of name changes along the way.” Perhaps another sign that Santos does not have family members who were hunted by Adolf Hitler? His alleged willingness to joke about Hitler killing Jews, and Black people too.

Patch reports that in March 2011, Santos commented on a Facebook photo shared by a friend showing “someone making what appears to be a military salute with the caption ‘something like Hitler’.” Commenting below, Santos allegedly wrote: “hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh hiiiiiiiiiiiitlerrrrrrrrrrr (hight hitler) lolololololololololololol sombody kill her!! the jews and black mostly lolllolol!!! Dum.” A former friend told the outlet they recalled seeing the offensive comment, took a screenshot and sent it along. Patch says it also “verified through another former friend, Gregory Morey-Parker, that the original Facebook post under which Santos wrote the Hitler comment existed.” Presumably that will not be the case for very long. Morey-Parker, who was also once roommates with Santos, also told Patch that the newly sworn-in congressman would regularly make offensive jokes, typically about paying the bill for meals, “but he brushed it off saying he was Jewish. He’d always say that it was okay for him to make those jokes because he was Jewish,” Morey-Parker recalled. (Santos has copped to the fact that he is not actually Jewish, by insisting he never said he was. “I never claimed to be Jewish,” he said in an interview with the New York Post shortly after many of his lies initially came to light. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’”)

In an email, Santos’s attorney claimed to Patch that the comment was somehow fake, writing: “the Facebook comment that you reference…is completely false, absolutely disgusting — There is absolutely nothing to talk about.”



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Sui-Based Ethos Wallet Raises $4.2M in Seed Round

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Sui-Based Ethos Wallet Raises $4.2M in Seed Round

“When we first set our sights on developing a wallet on the Sui blockchain, it became our mission to evolve what a crypto wallet is. Currently, they are viewed as a place to store crypto assets, however, they have the capability to do much more,” Eldeib said in the press release. “With Ethos, we’re working on developing, discovering and interacting with blockchain-based applications and to make those interactions safer and easier to use.”

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