...CA whistleblower reveals more in new book
While officials of the United National Congress (UNC) continue to deny their role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a new book by an ex-worker of the company details the work they did in Trinidad and Tobago in 2013 and paints a dark picture of the data collected and used by the then People’s Partnership government.
More frightening is the claim in the book, written by former company data consultant Christopher Wylie, that the then government allowed them to use data mining to “spy” on voter behaviour to track T&T citizens’ patterns and behaviour.
“We were spying, pure and simple, with cover from the Trinidadian leaders,” Wylie claims in his new book Mindf**k.
He said while national security officials were interested in the mined data to help with the rampant crime levels and to identify persons more likely to commit crimes, “the Trinidadian government wasn’t interested only in reducing crime.”
Another alarming allegation by Wylie was that the then government did not seek to protect the data of the citizens, but instead gave Cambridge Analytica unfettered access to unredacted data on everyone.
“Essentially, the Trinidadian government was violating the privacy of all its citizens in one swoop,” he said.
Wylie said the company was able to tap into the main telecommunications infrastructure, pick an IP (Internet protocol) address and sit and watch what that person was doing on the internet. Their monitoring turned up interesting types of behaviour from T&T citizens, Wylie admitted. He detailed one instance of honing in on a single Internet user who was toggling between plantain recipes and porn.
“Not surprisingly, it was a lot of porn. People were browsing everything imaginable, including the culturally specific ‘Trini Porn,’” he said.
The company’s software and unlimited access to local internet protocols allowed Cambridge Analytica to zoom in to the internet users’ addresses and even use Google Earth to pinpoint the users’ homes, he said. However, Wylie admitted to a “bizarre” feeling of observing what people were watching on a “tiny, faraway island.”
According to Wylie, the T&T contract included “building infrastructure for Facebook data harvesting, click-stream data, ISP (internet service provider) logs and the reconciliation of IP addresses and user agents to home addresses,” which effectively removed the casual anonymity of internet use.
The UNC, the majority party of the then amalgamated People’s Partnership that formed the government at the time, vehemently denied any connection to the scandal that rocked the country in 2018 after Cambridge Analytica’s practices were exposed internationally.
Guardian Media reached out yesterday to UNC MP Rodney Charles, who was then the party’s campaign manager, for comment on the matter. He said he had not yet seen the book and after some of the paragraphs of the book were read to him, said he had no clue about what was divulged by Wylie.
However, Charles said it was time for Wylie to provide more specifics about his claims like names, emails and contracts. He said if Wylie can’t do so, it is nothing short of a glorified “Nancy story”.