Earlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee. He was questioned about data that was acquired by Cambridge Analytica via a personality test app. The reason we know what this company was doing is that a man named Christopher Wylie decided to speak up. He brought to light what Cambridge Analytica was doing with data that was gathered from unsuspecting Facebook users.

Blowing the whistle

In an interview with The Guardian, Wylie talked about Cambridge Analytica, a company that he co-founded, and what the company was doing with the data that was acquired.

Wylie is a data scientist that was employed by the SCL Group. While he was working there, he met Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon. Bannon wanted to develop a new way to persuade voters through psychological means, and he wanted to use Cambridge Analytica to do it. He knew that he needed money to fund the project, and Mercer, an American billionaire, put forth $15 million for the funding of the project.

At one point in the interview, Wylie refers to Cambridge Analytica as a "full-service propaganda machine." The company was created to distribute political ads that targeted voters by more than topics and party affiliation. The data that was gathered was used to build profiles that could predict the type of messages that an in an individual was likely to respond to.

They used this information to change the tone or even the layout of the ads. It didn't stop at ads either, as the data was used to construct websites and blog posts that were uploaded to the internet. Cambridge Analytica used the information to create their own facts, and soon people started to believe them.

In an interview with Chuck Todd from NBC, Wylie said that he began to become uncomfortable with what Cambridge Analytica was doing with both collecting the data and how they were using it.

As a co-founder of the company, he made the decision that he did not want to be involved with what was going on and decided to leave and speak out about this information. He also mentioned in this interview that one of the main reasons he decided to speak up was the possibility that the information from the Facebook profiles could be stored anywhere in the world, with no way to be sure if the entirety of the information was deleted.

Why is this important?

If Wylie had not come forward, this situation could have become even worse. He made a tough decision to do what was right, and by speaking up, Wylie set in motion a process that would help stop what was happening and prevent something like this from happening in the future.