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Cambridge Analytica Left Voter Targeting Tools Unsecured Online

An intern at the Mercer Family start-up Cambridge Analytica left its voter targeting tools accessible online with its security protocols publicly posted according to Natasha Bertrand of the Business Insider. (photo courtesy of Democracy Now)

An intern at the Mercer Family start-up Cambridge Analytica left its voter targeting tools accessible online with its security protocols publicly posted according to Natasha Bertrand of Business Insider.

An intern at the data mining and analysis firm Cambridge Analytica left online for nearly a year what appears to be programming instructions for the voter targeting tools the company used around the time of the election, raising questions about who could have accessed the tools and to what end.

Jonathan Albright, who leads Columbia's Tow Center for Digital Journalism, discovered that the Cambridge Analytica software code was publicly available online. Following his discovery, he wrote a Medium article about it. Someone deleted the Cambridge Analytica software code right after he published his Medium article.

Social media analyst and data scientist Jonathan Albright discovered the election data processing scripts — or programming instructions — on what he said was the intern's personal GitHub account. GitHub, a "Facebook for programmers," is an internet hosting service mostly used for code. The account was scrubbed less than an hour after Albright published his findings on Medium,but the scripts had already been archived.

This intern left his security protocols posted online.

Additionally, the intern appeared to have left Cambridge Analytica's Twitter API secret and key online when he uploaded the scripts. The secret and key, which was removed in February, amounts to the account username and password that companies and developers use to search and pull tweets and user profile information from Twitter, Albright explained. Albright said the code for the tools was "sitting right on Github for almost a year: from March 2016 to February 2017 — the last 8 months of the US election."

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