Over 1.175 million Facebook users in Philippines affected by Cambridge Analytica scandal

Photo: Reuters

According to media reports in the United States published yesterday, data from over 87 million accounts there may have been improperly shared with British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.

While the U.S. had the highest number of affected accounts, according to a statement published by Facebook earlier today, the Philippines came in second with 1.175 million users whose accounts Facebook said may have been affected by the data sharing.

The statement also announced several changes to what data Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) from third-party apps can access.

(See the full statement here)

In a report published in the South China Morning Post, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) helped Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte win the 2016 elections by branding him as a “tough crime fighter” in his social media campaign.

“In the run-up to national elections the incumbent client was widely perceived as both kind and honorable, qualities his campaign team thought were potentially election-winning,” the SCMP quoted SCL’s website.

According to the same report, Alexander Nix, a senior executive of SCL, came to Manila after the election in 2016 and gave a revealing talk at a National Press Club event about how his company uses data for political campaigning.

“But SCL’s research showed that many groups within the electorate were more likely to be swayed by qualities such as toughness and decisiveness. SCL used the cross-cutting issue of crime to re-brand the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action, who would appeal to the true values of the voters.”

At the event, Nix even bragged that they had seen a “100 percent success rate” in 100 election campaigns in Asia, Africa, India and western Europe.

Get this, he even said the firm’s methods could get a “fundamentally flawed” candidate” elected by maximizing their “likable traits.” Ya don’t say?

In 2016, Duterte’s social media campaign manager Nic Gabunada told Rappler that they had PHP10 million (US$191,000) to spend, but returned most of it because of the number of volunteers they had.

No mention was made at the time if money was spent for data analysis from SCL.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify at the United States House of Representatives next week over the data breach scandal.

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