Decades before Google or Facebook existed, a Madison Avenue advertising man started a company called Simulmatics based on a then-revolutionary method of using computers to forecast how people would behave. Historian Jill Lepore tells the story in her new book.
Christopher Wylie was a research director at Cambridge Analytica. When he joined the company its goal was countering extremists who were using social media to recruit followers. But then the company began collecting personal data from Facebook users, and used it to target people susceptible to conspiracy theories and disinformation during the 2016 presidential campaign. Wylie left the company and became a whistleblower.
Advertisers collect information with every digital move people make. They then target ads based on that information. Communications scholar Joseph Turow worries that advertisers will use such data to discriminate against people and put them into "reputation silos."
Many people generate an immense amounts of digital data during a single day — often without a second thought. But Stephen Baker, a senior writer at BusinessWeek, warns that the information generated is being monitored by a group of entrepreneurial mathematicians.
Robert O'Harrow, Jr. is a reporter for The Washington Post and an associate of the Center for Investigative Reporting. His new book is about how the government is creating a national intelligence infrastructure with the help of private companies as part of homeland security. Huge data-mining operations are contracted by the government to gather information on our daily lives. Information technology has enabled retailers, marketers, and financial institutions to gather and store data about us.