Why did it need it? Because it could profit from using that data by providing services to a client here. Cambridge Analytica and its mother company SCL have a very specific type of client: political parties or political candidates.
Someone in Malta was using an incredibly large sample of 6,000 profiles to extrapolate what buttons need to be pressed to manipulate voter fears and intuitive responses in order for them to vote in a certain way.
Political candidates are meant to use election campaigns to develop the arguments and the policies that should persuade voters in a transparent manner to choose them over others.
But the use of personal data to profile respondents psychologically does away with argument and reason and resorts to instincts and prejudices.
This is what happens in the background of elections that at face value look like they’re going in the opposite direction. No matter how compelling the arguments against leaving the EU, or against having a clown in the White House, or against corruption in politics, that is only a show being fought in the media.
It is not a battle that is swaying most people’s hearts and minds.
The real war is fought on people’s phones and computer screens where very specifically targeted adverts and news – whether real or not –will have the effect of creating an almost autonomous response.
The Cambridge Analytica story is not merely an invasion of people’s privacy, though it is that. It is an undermining of democracy as we’ve known it.
Here in Malta someone has been using this to manipulate people’s moods, attitudes, ultimately even electoral outcomes. Government spokesmen say this is “pure fiction”.
Data mining is not only happening on Facebook. It is happening in apps surreptitiously spread on the phones of target audiences, cheating users out of information they would otherwise have kept for themselves.
At a point of having harvested 6,000 profiles in Malta you are statistically certain of having an incontrovertibly rock solid picture of what all the separate segments of society want and hope for and, perhaps more importantly, what they fear. Six thousand profiles collected in Malta is a massively disproportionately high sample compared with the 2.7 million collected throughout Europe. It is a systematic attempt, entirely successful in its final outcome, to understand what people want before they realise they want it themselves.
The recent ‘innovation’ of clocking all names of Isle of MTV attendees is one such episode that has forced a formal data protection appeals adjudicator express her fear of a 1984 Big Brother scenario taking hold. She would know.
Like lambs to the slaughter we’re led. Like lambs we seem to enjoy the ride.