Data given to Cambridge Analytica ‘highly inaccurate’

The Cambridge academic at the centre of a row over the use of Facebook users’ private data has dismissed claims the information could have been used to influence voters.

Data given to Cambridge Analytica ‘highly inaccurate’

Aleksandr Kogan, who supplied the personal information of millions of Facebook users to election consultancy Cambridge Analytica (CA) in 2014, told British politicians that personality scores he gave to the company were “highly inaccurate” and “made little sense” for political advertising.

“The idea that this data is accurate, I would say, is scientifically ridiculous. The idea that even if you had a lot more data you could make it super accurate is also pretty silly,” he told a House of Commons select committee.

Dr Kogan insisted that Facebook’s tools were capable of helping campaign groups send targeted advertising without the need for more specific information about people’s personalities.

In written evidence supplied to the committee before his appearance he said: “The Facebook ads platform provides tools and capability to run targeted ads with little need for our work — in fact, the platform’s tools provide companies with a far more effective pathway to target people based on their personalities than using scores from users from our work.”

CA parent company SCL paid Dr Kogan to harvest data from Facebook using a personality survey, which he then processed to make predictions about personality under the company name Global Science Research.

Asked what the value of the work he did for SCL was, Dr Kogan replied: “Based on what we know now, nothing.”

CA executives and whistleblowers have previously insisted on the value and effectiveness of their work including that the company helped Donald Trump’s US presidential election campaign and the Brexit campaign.

In secret filming by Channel 4 News released in March, CA executives boasted about profiling voters to help politicians target them with social media adverts.

Earlier in the hearing, Dr Kogan accused former CA chief executive Alexander Nix of lying in his evidence to the committee in February.

Committee chairman Damian Collins asked Dr Kogan to verify answers from Mr Nix about data collected by his company, Global Science Research, and given to CA.

Mr Collins said: “I said to [Mr Nix]: ‘Does any of your data come from Global Science Research?’ And he said no.”

“That’s a fabrication,” replied Dr Kogan. Mr Collins continued: “I said: ‘They have not supplied you with data or information?’ And he said ‘no’.”

“Total fabrication,” said Dr Kogan.

He also cast doubt on the evidence of Mr Wylie, who presented large amounts of evidence about CA to the committee and testified in March.

“Mr Wylie has invented many things,” claimed Dr Kogan. “By March 2015 we had begun to suspect that Mr Wylie may not be the most reputable person in the world,” he said.

Facebook’s chief technical officer, Mike Schroepfer, us due to give evidence at the committee tomorrow.

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