Crowdpac UK Shuts

Crowdpac, the Steve Hilton backed start-up to crowd fund political campaigns, is shutting down its UK arm today. Having raised only £600,000 since 2014 through the Crowdpac platform, it was losing money. Originally it was non-partisan and the intention was to bring some transparency to political funding.

It switched in 2016 to being a left-wing fundraising platform for Trump-hating Remainers. That might have worked but the management were pretty clueless about marketing and the whole vibe just came over as very US corporate in comparison to Momentum. The crowdfunding sector is very profitable when it works, Crowdpac just never achieved the necessary critical mass…

Barnier’s Lost in Space Over Galileo

Remainers are becoming more and more excited over the impact of Brexit on UK participation in EU space activities, especially the Galileo satellite network. The Galileo navigation system is the EU’s rival to US-owned GPS. A key element of the system, designed for military and emergency services, is a timing and navigation signal called the PRS (Public Regulated Service). The European Commission says the UK will not be able to access the PRS without further agreements after Brexit. Michel Barnier is weaponising the issue in his latest attempt at brinkmanship. He said yesterday:

“Third countries and their companies cannot participate in the development of security-sensitive matters.”

That’s more than a bit rich from Barnier: British experts designed much of the cryptography behind the system and developed the security technology protecting PRS. The satellites are currently controlled from Portsmouth. UK companies control the crucial security information – those firms have been reminded by ministers that they should not enter into new Galileo contracts in response to EU posturing. Moreover, the UK has poured £1.2 billion of taxpayers’ money into developing the system. It is already years late. If the EU makes an issue of it, the British will withdraw, sending costs spiralling for the EU-27 and delaying the project even further due to their lack of expertise…

Meanwhile, the UK government has already started work on its own system. A UK Space Agency spokesman said:

“The UK Space Agency is leading the work to develop options for a British alternative to Galileo, to guarantee our satellite positioning, navigation and timing needs are met in the future.”

Taking back control to infinity and beyond?

Switzerland and Canada are member countries of the European Space Agency without being in the EU or, in Canada’s case, europe. This will, as with Euratom and the Open Skies Agreement, turn out to be bluster on both sides and a deal will be done…

Labour Revoke Uber’s Licence in Brighton

The Labour administration that runs Brighton and Hove City council has revoked Uber’s licence to operate in the city. They are citing a 2016 data breach by American hackers to declare that Uber do not meet the fit and proper persons test. Uber will appeal, if they lose Brighton residents will no longer be able to use the taxi app. Socialism isn’t cool, kids…

UK Tech Investment Surges 115%

We were warned before the referendum by George Osborne, economists, think tanks, the IMF, OECD and investment banks that business confidence would collapse and investment would dry up if Britain voted to Brexit. Last year, the first full year when investors knew Britain would be Brexiting, saw tech investment hit a record with €7.1 billion* raised, a 115% year-on-year increase in investment in the high-tech industries and firms of the future. That is more than France and Germany combined…

Source: a report by technology investment firm GP Bullhound.

Twitter Down

Twitter is down – thousands of users have reported service interruptions and difficulties accessing their timelines. The Down Detector website recorded a spike in outages. TweetDeck seems unaffected. You’ve gone too far this time, Vlad…

590 Million Facebook Profiles Potentially Harvested By Guardian App

The Observer’s main revelation over the last couple of weeks has been their claim that Cambridge Analytica harvested data from 50 million Facebook accounts. They found that CA’s Aleksander Kogan collected data from 270,000 accounts and was able to access data from all their friends – on average 185 users per account – making up a total of 50 million. This does seem to add up, the most recent figures suggest the median number of Facebook friends per account is just under 200. 

The Guardian app’s privacy policy reveals they also collect data from your Facebook account, and the accounts of all your friends. This data includes “your name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Facebook account settings, as well as the user details of your Facebook friends”. You have to give permission to have your data, and that of your friends, collected if you want to use the app. This has been happening for years…

The Guardian say their app has 3.2 million active users. If those users have on average 185 Facebook friends each, that means the Guardian has potentially accessed the personal Facebook data of something like 592 million accounts. That is more than ten times the number Cambridge Analytica reportedly got hold of. This is a conservative estimate as it only includes “active” users of the Guardian app – it will have been downloaded by many more down the years. Will Damian Collins be hauling the head of data and CEO of the Guardian in front of his select committee?

Cadwalladr’s Sunday Scoop: Top Remainer Paid AIQ

Guido hears Carole Cadwalladr has another big scoop lined up for Sunday about money paid to the Canadian digital marketing firm AggregateIQ. Carole has emailed Michael Gove asking what AIQ did for his leadership campaign in the summer of 2016. Has she uncovered a new layer to the great Brexit conspiracy? It turns out AIQ was paid £2,720.46 in July 2016 to set up the campaign website. The payment was put through by campaign manager Nick Boles, a prominent Remainer and Stronger In campaigner. Which slightly throws a spanner in the works for Carole’s next sinister Brexiteer flow chart. Just how deep does the conspiracy go? 

Guardian App Harvests Your and Your Friends’ Facebook Data

The Guardian app harvests your personal data from your Facebook page and also the data of all of your friends – the exact same central allegation the Observer has been making against Cambridge Analytica. The privacy policy of the Guardian Facebook app makes clear if you don’t grant permission to have your and your friends’ social media data harvested you cannot use the app:

When you first access the App, for example by clicking on a link to a Guardian article from your Facebook newsfeed, you will be presented with a Facebook permissions page, which will advise you about the Facebook information you will be sharing with the App and other Facebook users. You can then decide whether or not to share your Facebook information by using the App. If you decide not to grant permission you will not be able to use the App. 

By granting permission you will be agreeing to share your Facebook user details (including your name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Facebook account settings) as well as the user details of your Facebook friends, and information about your use of the App, for example, the articles you are reading.”

The Guardian’s general privacy policy also reveals they sell your “behavioural data” to third parties:

“We may also share anonymised behavioural data with advertising partners, including commercial organisations that fund content labelled ‘Supported by’, ‘Paid content/Paid for by’ or ‘Advertiser content/from our advertisers’. This may mean that when you are on other websites, you will be shown advertising based on your behaviour on theguardian.com. We may also show you advertising on our site based on your behaviour on other sites.

They also reveal the Guardian uses data from third-party surveys – this is exactly how Aleksandr Kogan got his data for Cambridge Analytica:

“To assist us in our marketing, in addition to the data that you provide to us if you register, we may also obtain data from trusted third parties to help us understand what you might be interested in. This ‘profiling’ information is produced from a variety of sources, including publicly available data (such as the electoral roll) or from sources such as surveys and polls where you have given your permission for your data to be shared.”

Did the Guardian sell your behavioural data to Cambridge Analytica? Are they the missing piece of the jigsaw that blows this whole conspiracy wide open? Over to you, Carole…

Observer’s Whistleblower Personally Offered to Harvest Data For Vote Leave

The whistleblower who says social media data harvesting is “grossly unethical” personally wrote a pitch to Vote Leave offering to harvest data for them during the referendum campaign, Guido can reveal. Christopher Wylie, the pink-haired former Cambridge Analytica employee turned Observer whistleblower, has spent the last week talking up his opposition to data harvesting:

“It was a grossly unethical experiment because you are playing with an entire country, the psychology of an entire country without their consent or awareness… It’s like Nixon on steroids.”

Yet after Wylie left Cambridge Analytica, he sent a pitch to Vote Leave offering to harvest data for them during the referendum. In a pitch sent to Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings in January 2016, Wylie wrote:

“We will trial social data harvesting for Vote Leave and use some of our own technology to target and acquire online data about UK voters.”

Wylie went on:

“Several online panels would be set up to target a cross section of voters… We would try to further increase the sample by accessing the social networks of the panel respondents. We would also harvest online and social data”

This is the email Wylie sent to Cummings personally offering to harvest data:

Click to enlarge

This is Cummings’ reply rejecting Wylie’s offer:

Click to enlarge

You can read Wylie’s rejected pitch to Vote Leave in full here. And you can read Cummings’ blog post responding to the latest Observer claims, and explaining how he thought Wylie was a “charlatan“, here.

The Observer and other Remainers seem determined to use Wylie’s claims about “unethical” data harvesting to somehow discredit the referendum result. What they haven’t mentioned is Wylie was himself offering to harvest data for Vote Leave after he left Cambridge Analytica. How does he explain that one?

MPs Told: ‘Don’t Tell People Your Passwords’

The Information Commissioner’s office has written to MPs to remind them not to share their usernames and passwords with others. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wrote to all MPs this week:

“My office observed reports from social media in early December 2017 in which a number of Members openly revealed their practice of sharing their login details and passwords. I was concerned by these reports and have decided to write to all Members to highlight the importance of following good practice in respect of password management and information security.”

During the Damian Green scandal press reports noted the practice of MPs sharing their passwords with staff. Sharing passwords could give MPs plausible deniability over their online actions…

The letter from the ICO came to MPs in the notoriously impregnable form of a Microsoft Word document. The properties tab in Word revealed the username of the document’s author and members of ICO staff who had edited it. Some way to go to achieve max info sec…

Standard – Deliveroo Love In

Guido cannot think what Deliveroo have to do in return for the endless puff pieces and positive coverage the Evening Standard gives them. In the last few months the Standard has written a glowing profile of Deliveroo’s founder and top and tailed multiple Deliveroo press releases on how they help feed the hungry and offer free food to their rivals’ customers. Well if you can’t use the editorship to help out your close friend and former adviser, now Deliveroo’s head of global comms, what’s the point? 

49 Russian Twitter Trolls Sent Just 942 Tweets During Referendum

Over in Washington, Twitter’s Nick Pickles has told grandstanding Damian Collins and his Culture, Media and Sport select committee that the company detected just 49 accounts linked to a Russian “troll factory”, which sent out a mere 942 tweets during the EU referendum. This is 0.005% of the total number of accounts that tweeted about the referendum. Earlier Collins lost it with Facebook’s representative for denying there was any Russian intervention, snapping: “But you haven’t looked! You haven’t looked!”, and even implying Facebook was lucky not to be “closed down” and its executives “face prosecution. Almost as if Collins is an arch-Remainer using his position to push the Russia / Brexit conspiracy theory, even when the tech companies themselves say it’s a load of nonsense…

Matt Hancock: ‘I’m Sorry I’m Not the Prime Minister’

Silicon Roundabout’s Matt Hancock spoke at the 10 Downing Street charities reception on Monday night. Guido’s co-conspirator recounts his opener:

“Hello and welcome to Number Ten.

“Firstly, I’d like to apologise that I’m not the Prime Minister… [laughter]

“But it’s an honour to address so many people who do so much, working tirelessly every day, to make life better for the citizens of this country.”

If only there was an app where we could all share these gems…

Matt Hancock Calls App Britain

They may have the Silicon chip but we have the Silicon chap: Matt Hancock. The Culture Secretary is calling app Britain – he has created a new social network where fans can keep up with his every move. It’s basically Facebook, but just Matt Hancock’s feed. Anyway, the internet is loving it:

It’s trending on Twitter, but who uses that anymore?

Tory Website Down After Letting Certificate Lapse

First job for the new party chairman… getting the website back online after CCHQ let the HTTPS certificate lapse…

H/T Rob Colvile

“No Significant Russian Activity” During Referendum

Another report this morning, this time in the FT, rubbishing the claims by fanatical Remainers of Russian intervention in the referendum. Researchers at Oxford University found that just 105 Russia-linked accounts tweeted in the run up to the vote. These numbers are negligible, by comparison there were 2,752 Russia-linked accounts operating during the US election. The report concludes that there was no “significant Russian activity” during the referendum.

This is the latest evidence-based story countering the meme being pushed by Remainers that somehow Russia caused Brexit. Over the last few weeks:

  • Twitter said only one Russian account spent any money promoting tweets during the referendum, and they only bought six adverts.
  • It emerged that most Russian Twitter activity about Brexit actually took place after the referendum.
  • And a number of the Russia-linked Twitter accounts were actually pro-Remain.
  • Google told the Electoral Commission it had found no evidence of any paid Russian activity during the referendum.
  • Facebook said Russia spent a total of 73p on adverts during the referendum, and they reached 200 people.
  • An account accused by one pro-Remain outlet of being a Russian troll turned out to be a run by a security guard in Glasgow.

Ben Bradshaw, Tom Brake and co are oddly quiet about the FT story this morning, and indeed they have been silent about the stories above. Yet still ultra Remainers continue to peddle the patronising idea that Russian bots tricked 17 million people into voting Leave. Good to see the FT calling out this nonsense, not that it’ll stop Remain MPs smearing honest Leave voters as Russia’s useful idiots…

Labour Outsources Flashy New Website to Bernie’s US Consultants

Labour’s flashy new website was outsourced to an American digital firm that worked on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. The source code for the new site shows Labour commissioned Washington DC based Wide Eye Creative, a trendy web design and branding shop that worked for, among others, the Sanders campaign and airbnb. They designed Sanders’ campaign logo – further confirmation that Jezza fancies himself as the British Bernie. For all the Corbynistas’ boasting about how good their digital operation was, they’ve had to call in expensive American consultants to do the actual work. Not sure John McDonnell will be pleased with this sort of outsourcing either. Was there no British digital firm Labour could have hired?

Not only are Labour sending money offshore, they’re also saving themselves a VAT bill by hiring an overseas firm rather than a British one. Political campaigns can’t claim the VAT back on expenses, so by hiring an American company Labour will have saved 20% on their bill. A handy dodge…

UPDATE: A Labour spokesman said:

“Labour’s established lead in online campaigning has been cemented by our successful new website. We use world-class tools to power our campaigns, as well as developing proprietary systems in-house. In common with the Guido Fawkes site, we use WordPress, the software powering 28% of the internet. Unlike Guido Fawkes, our site is hosted in the UK.”

UPDATE: Labour gets back in touch to say the party self-charges 20% on its VAT return for the work done by Wide Eye Creative.

Trump Account Deleted By Employee on Last Day at Twitter

He was offline for 11 minutes…

AOL Instant Messager R.I.P.

Before there was Twitter or WhatsApp there was AOL IM. Now it is being shuttered. When people wail about the dominance of Google and Facebook remember AOL, “You got mail” and they merged with Time Warner in a deal that capped the internet’s first boom. It was going to dominate the world once. Now it is a sad old legacy brand and we are waving goodbye to the yellow man…

Corbyn Can’t Say If He’s Used Uber

Increasingly farcical Marr interview in which Corbyn refuses to answer any questions…[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Dr Alexander Kogan, the app developer who originally harvested the Facebook data, said…

“I think what Cambridge Analytica has tried to sell is magic and made claims this is incredibly accurate and it tells you everything there is to tell about you. But I think the reality is it’s not that. If you sit down and you really work through the statistics and you think what does a correlation of point three means, those claims quickly fall apart. And that’s something any person with a statistical background can go and do.”

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