What We’ve Learned From The Cambridge Analytica / Facebook Data Breach | Macleod & Co. | Minneapolis Marketing Agency

What we know about the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook data breach

Background on the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook data breach

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the controversy surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Last Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that initial estimates putting the number of affected users at 50 million were off, and that the actual figure is closer to 87 million. To be fair, I too often forget to account for 40 million people in my estimates — NOT.

Were you affected?

The short answer: maybe, maybe not. This week, Facebook is sending messages to individuals whose personal data was compromised. On a broader scale, I’m fairly certain that all of us are aware that our data is being shared to some degree. It’s the deal we make with the digital devil. But what data do these corporations actually have? And what exactly are they doing with it?

Here’s just some of the data that’s being traded:

  • Cookies Everything you search on your computer or smartphone — creepy, sure, but by now you should know this is happening).
  • Shopping Habits Every online purchase is recorded and tracked
  • Demographics Okay, this is basic census data — think AOL chat room questions like age, sex, location, race, religion, education, income, etc.
  • Social Engagements Every single like, share, favorite, follow — it’s all up for grabs
  • Views They watch what you watch, and that includes Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, Amazon — even cable.
  • What You Say Alexa, Google Home, Siri — they are always listening and recording keywords for data use.


Cambridge Analytica reports that they have 4,000-5,000 data points on every single adult in the United States. Click To Tweet


Okay, so what are they doing with all of this data?

Creating individual behavioral and psychological profiles of all of us, duh! Once our profiles are established, we are segmented into different categories. Then we are served content and advertisements that are deemed likely influence our decision making — in favor of the highest bidder.

What does this segmentation look like? Well, it’s not all that different from an episode of Black Mirror, complete with an eerie acronym: O.C.E.A.N.

O.C.E.A.N. stands for:

  • Openness — How open are you to new experiences?
  • Conscientiousness — Do you prefer order, planning, habits?
  • Extroversion — How social are you?
  • Agreeableness — Do you put other people’s or society’s needs ahead of your own?
  • Neuroticism — How much do you worry?

As much as we all love a good conspiracy theory — this isn’t one.

“We were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America” —Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica CEO

If you want to know how it works, take a look:

If you don’t have 11 minutes (you definitely do, though), I’ll break it down:

Let’s say you’re the highest bidder for this data, and you want the American people to sign a petition in support of your climate change initiative. Well, in the past you might push a certain advertisement or article to young male Democrats, and a different one to older female Republicans.

Now, you can push content based on where your audience falls on the O.C.E.A.N matrix.

Let’s take a look

Here we have three separate articles, all of which base their messaging on the belief that climate change is indeed real. These are three completely different stories that — at face value — focus on three completely different topics. Based on your O.C.E.A.N. score, you will be shown the version that is tailored to your individual personal profile.

Example #1: Agreeable Neurotic

Someone who worries about the wellbeing of others and society as a whole.
What we’ve learned from the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook data breach

Article: Global warming can turn monarch butterflies’ favorite food into poison

This piece — though scientific and empirical by nature — targets Agreeable Neurotics’ tendency to worry about the wellbeing of society  (pollinators contribute to nearly a third of what we consume). Chilling words like “poison” help too…if that sorta thing scares you.

Example #2: Conscientious Neurotic

Someone who is Conscientious Neurotic has a tendency to worry and is concerned with order, planning and habits.
What we’ve learned from the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook data breach

Article: Is it time to join the ‘preppers’? How to survive the climate-change apocalypse

This article (and its dramatic headline and feature image) targets this personality type’s urge to plan ahead in order to lessen the impact of a negative future event on their lives. It further plays into their fears by using sensational language like “apocalypse”. Savage.

Example #3: Open Agreeable

These individuals are open to new experiences and ideas and prioritize the needs of others and society as a whole.
What we’ve learned from the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook data breach

Article: What will our climate look like in 2050?

Capitalizing on this personality type’s inclination to think imaginatively about the future, this article focuses on what the world could look like in 30 years. This article is not only persuasive, it lends itself perfectly to this particular O.C.E.A.N. score.


We’ve all heard the term “fake news”

In reality, it’s targeted news that is troubling; news that is tailored to our individual emotional responses will ultimately shape the way we view the world, make our purchases, and vote candidates into office.

The really scary question is who has the data?

Written by: Sam Calcagno, Content Creator. Macleod & Co. is a premier full-service Twin Cities marketing agency, with a special emphasis on digital, brand and the strategy that unites the two. We partner with businesses of all shapes and sizes, from startup hustlers to established empires, to create and execute strategies that deliver results.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *