When data crimes are real crimes: voter surveillance and the Cambridge Analytica conflict




Gordon, Jesse

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This thesis asks what conditions elevated the Cambridge Analytica (CA) conflict into a sustained and global political issue? Was this a privacy conflict and if so, how was it framed as such? This work demonstrates that the public outcry to CA formed out of three underlying structural conditions: The rise of the alt-right as an ideology, surveillance capitalism, and a growing and unregulated voter analytics industry. A network of actors seized the momentum of this conflict to drive the message that voter surveillance is a threat to democratic elections. These actors humanized the CA conflict and created a catalyst for a large scale public outrage to these previously ignored structures. Their focus on democratic threat also allowed this conflict to transcend the typical contours of a privacy conflict and demonstrate that the consequences of CA are societal, rather than personal. Despite the democratic threat of voter surveillance, Canada and the United States have yet to address the wider implications of voter surveillance adequately. Thus, how these systems are used will be a question of central importance in upcoming elections.



Cambridge Analytica, Voter Surveillance, Big data, Privacy, Surveillance, alt-right, Political marketing, Elections, Campaign, 2016 election, Donald Trump, democracy, SCL, Privacy Advocates, democratic threat, politics, Facebook, social media, psychographics, democratic erosion, Graph API v1.0, Personal Information, data crimes, data regulators, political party, Republican, Democratic Party, Voter analytics, mydigitallife, app, frames, data broker, Micro-targeting