back to article $0.75 – about how much Cambridge Analytica paid per voter in bid to micro-target their minds, internal docs reveal

Cambridge Analytica bought psychological profiles on individual US voters, costing roughly 75 cents to $5 apiece, each crafted using personal information plundered from millions of Facebook accounts, according to revealed internal documents. Over the course of the past two weeks, whistleblower Chris Wylie has made a series of …

  1. Oh Homer

    It wasn't me either, I'm just his mate

    He told me to stand here and watch the gate

    I'm as honest as the day is long

    The longer the daylight, the less I do wrong

    So basically, I told this guy to do it, but I never done it, so it weren't me. Honest guv'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It wasn't me either, I'm just his mate

      I thought its more the case "I wanted to do it but I didn't get the contract so now I'm going to throw the toys out of my pram"

  2. JeffyPoooh

    "...psychological profiles...from roughly 75 cents to $5 apiece..."

    Mine's worth thousands.

    To be honest, so are many other Commentards on El Reg. Mensa has got nothing over this forum.

    1. Chris G

      Re: "...psychological profiles...from roughly 75 cents to $5 apiece..."

      You are absolutely right there JeffyPoooh; Mensa has nothing at all on El Reg.

      I don't know what Mensa is like nowadays but after doing a couple of tests in my late teens I was invited to join, at a time when Mensa were insisting that they should really be in charge of government and the world because they were super intelligent.

      I met one or two members and the old saw about 'anyone who wants to be a politician is automatically unfit for the job' applies well to them. On the other hand there are one or two commentards who,at least in their comments, sound fit to govern.

      I might add I disqualify myself because the firing squads I would employ, may not be seen as very democratic.

      1. VinceH

        Re: "...psychological profiles...from roughly 75 cents to $5 apiece..."

        If you'd only go as far as firing squads, you're probably much more suitable than me.

        See icon. It's the only way to be sure.

        1. Fungus Bob

          Re: @VinceH

          "See icon. It's the only way to be sure."

          You'd put nukes in all the volcanoes?!

          Your real name is Xenu and I claim my $5...

      2. Tromos

        Re: "...psychological profiles...from roughly 75 cents to $5 apiece..."

        I object to the use of firing squads.

        Nothing to do with being undemocratic. I just think they wouldn't be very efficient at scale.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "...psychological profiles...from roughly 75 cents to $5 apiece..."

        The book 'Mensa' by Victor Serebriakoff mentions that the founders of Mensa were aiming for the Top 1%, but they screwed up the Statistics 101 and accidentally set the entrance criteria to the Top 2%.

        That pretty much sums it up.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: "...psychological profiles...from roughly 75 cents to $5 apiece..."

      My one vote is indistinguishable from any other, so my psychological profile probably is not worth more than any other. Indeed, because I have moderately well thought out and consistent opinions about public policy and the proper functions and operation of government that probably are quite hard to change, my profile could well be worth less than many others. And as stated that could be as true of the mean Register commentard or Mensa member.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Google DeepMind get our records for Free.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting ...

    Page 69 of the pdf document published by Parliament lists a company Global Science Research Ltd whose trading office is located inside a Cambridge College (Magdalene).

    In my time at CU it was illegal to run a business from College premises, presumably because such a College is a Charity and such conducting of a business would affect the College's charitable status ?

    1. The Axe

      Re: Interesting ...

      Not illegal, but against policy of the college. However, the college itself can set up any company it wants to further the aims of the college and which benefits the college. The policy against others is that they are in it for themselves, not the college.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    big five personality scores

    I don't see aversion to Marmite in those tests. How accurate could it really be?

    1. Chris G

      Re: big five personality scores

      "I don't see aversion to Marmite in those tests. How accurate could it really be?"

      So, aversion to Marmite is a good thing or a bad thing?

      Or does it say something else?

      In the interests of full disclosure; Marmite is always a requirement under the cheese on cheese on toast for me, preferably with extra mature cold sweat inducing cheddar.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: big five personality scores

        I'll explain, Marmite is a key marker in the human personality, there are three reactions to marmite, love, hate or indifference. This tells you whether the person is opinionated or unadventurous.

        Personally I like to make a nice bovril style drink using marmite and dip buttered bread in it.

  6. Chronos

    Anyone know a decent french polisher?

    That veneer of respectability on democracy is looking awfully tatty. The underlying mandate to govern may just be a little wormy, too.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Um, shouldn't that be filed under 'collusion' as well ?

    Trump is under fire for talking with Russia during the campaign, but isn't this the same (from the US point of view) ?

    I mean sure, US-UK, allies 'til the end of the world, of course, but still. The UK is a foreign country, and I don't know that you can collude with allies to win an election any better than with . . non-allies.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Um, shouldn't that be filed under 'collusion' as well ?

      Read up on Robert Mercer and decide if you and he are allies.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Um, shouldn't that be filed under 'collusion' as well ?

        The point, which seems quite valid, seems to be that intervention by any foreigners is potentially problematic. It may be illegal (under US law) as well. It is not clear whether work hired out to foreigners is in the same category. I conjecture that the Democrats pursuing "collusion" so enthusiastically do not think hiring Christopher Steele's firm was problematic.

        Robert Mercer is a US citizen, with the same constitutional rights as any of the rest of us, despite the fact that he has a lot more money than nearly all of us.

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Um, shouldn't that be filed under 'collusion' as well ?

        I don't even want him on my planet, so nope.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Um, shouldn't that be filed under 'collusion' as well ?

      Theoretically it should. Practically it will not.

      USA sanctions are purely a policy tool and have nothing to do with retaliation for real or perceived harm to USA.

      There are foreign states which openly interfere in USA elections. That's however is OK. They are not Russian (or so the USA thinks - I always use Russian there).

  8. vtcodger Silver badge

    Only Today

    Half a century or so ago, I was forced to take a history class. The assigned reading included a book called "Only Yesterday" written in 1931 by Frederick Lewis Allen. It details in depth the excesses of the 1920s. It ends with the 1929 stock market crash. It's still in print and well worth reading.

    Some day someone will probably write a similar book about the current decade. Lord knows, there's a wealth of fascinating material in many arenas -- Trump, Brexit, ISIS, the rise of China, the failure of computer security, Cryptocurrencies, and -- of course -- the collection of massive dossiers on individuals by companies like Google and Facebook that are somehow managing to monetarize huge rafts of probably completely useless data.

  9. BebopWeBop

    If (and a big one) it will be interesting to learn whether the investment in a relatively small number of profiles provided good predictors and/or influence points.

  10. The Nazz

    Peanuts, pocket change

    $0.75 to $5.00 ( and the odd £3.14 in there) per person is absolutely trivial when considered against the multi £billions that NuLabours Gordon "hero" Brown spent ( rather wasted, blew, flushed away etc) on buying parts of the electorate.

    That must have cost the country, a cost that is still ongoing today, many many £millions per swayed voter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Peanuts, pocket change

      There appears to be a typo in your handle, are you sure that last z shouldn't be an i ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Peanuts, pocket change

      "...many many £millions per swayed voter."

      Say £10 billion (for example) = just about 500 swayed voter (say £20M per). Not really enough swayed voters to make any difference.

      Do you understand what the words "many £millions" (per swayed voter) means? From a basic numeracy point of view, it's not making much sense.

      Did you spell "many £thousands" incorrectly?

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Peanuts, pocket change

      Although Mrs. Clinton got over 3 million more votes than Donald Trump in the US Presidential election the votes that swung the election amounted to about 74,500 in three states. There's more to winning elections than just getting a majority, its knowing where and who to target that gets the results. If we assume a top price of $5 a voter then the election was a bargain. (The election of Donald Trump wasn't really the goal, BTW -- the long game was control of the Federal judiciary and the demolition of Federal agencies. Trump is just the distraction, the noise maker that hides a much more sinister purpose.)

      This being a British site then I'd assume that you're more interested in the Brexit vote. I tend to think of that vote as being merely a dummy run, a test of the tools and techniques needed for the vastly more important Presidential election. You'll recall that the 'Exit' campaigners didn't really expect to win and had actually conceded early in the evening before the returns from the UK's version of the Heartland started coming in. Having an ill-prepared Exit campaign would explain the shambolic nature of subsequent negotiations with the EU -- its taken a couple of years to get off the ground and the UK's still not entirely clear what it wants (of course the True Believers think that somehow the US is going to come to its rescue with free trade agreements all round).

  11. Chairman of the Bored

    Total idiots

    Who's got time for all this "learn about who the voter is" or "what flavoring do we add to our brand of BS to make it tolerable"?

    Where I come from we cheat for real.

    The right way to do it fill out a stack of ballots however you like, and then print out little slips of paper with names on them of voters you suspect won't vote (*) or you know to be dead, incarcerated, etc. In "friendly" precincts any old name will do.

    Load up some vans of homeless guys with promises of cash, cigarettes, and cheap booze (**) and make sure each knows who he is supposed to be (***), and drive em from precinct to precinct to vote.

    That's how to cheat like a boss... You don't ask who a punter is, you freaking TELL him who he is.


    (*) A couple of bucks will usually suffice to keep an average inner city American from voting or vice versa. Quiet word from union boss can do the trick, too.

    (**) Pro tip: Make sure you give the cigs liberally as you drive, but do not issue any intoxicants or cash until all the voting is done.

    (***) Attempt to make sure the same ID is only used once per precinct

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    Facebook - burping data and getting paid for it.

  13. Alan W. Rateliff, II

    What was Facebook's cost?

    Oh, wait, Facebook makes money on whoring out its users.

    I am not a Facebook user but that does not stop friends and family from whoring me out on my behalf to the whore-master. Being so generous, they are, with my personal information.

    tl;dr, frankly this is all a logical conclusion of Facebook's reckless abuse of customer privacy for a decade. Anyone who thinks anything will change is sadly mistaken or just a fool. Regulation is not the answer, either, unless people want to start paying for "Facebook Premium" as well as willy-nilly government intrusion into our digital lives.

  14. Michael Habel

    How many times must the obvious be stated, and then restated....?

    If your not paying for the Product (in general)... YOU ARE the Product being sold?

    Armerd with this farly simple, if obvious piece of knowedge. Why the Hell is everyone suddeny all in a tizzy about this? If this is what we currently know about Facebook / Google (And others...), then what exactly is it that we still dont know?

    And would it still make any difference at this point?

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