From November 2011 through November 2012, Carol Davidsen worked in Chicago, IL for “Obama for America”, Barack Obama’s campaign group, as the director of data integration and media analytics, where she helped to build a database of every American voter using the same Facebook developer tool used by Cambridge Analytica.

In 2017, Davidsen spoke to a group at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York City. During her slide-show presentation, she explained how the Obama campaign extracted data from personal information from Facebook users.

Davidsen explained how they used the “Optimizer” and “Narwhal”, “A large data set with an API on top of it”. Davidsen explained, “When things can go crazy, is when you actually give people the data and you don’t really realize what is going on.”

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Davidson asked her audience, “Who owns” your information?” Davidsen continued to explain how, with the help of Facebook, the Obama 2012 campaign was able to extract the personal information of most of the people on Facebook.

“Facebook, 2012 election, had the ability for people to “opt-in”. The Obama campaign like, rocked this, right? We got people to opt in, and the privacy policy on Facebook at that time was that if they opted in, they could tell us who all their friends were. This is very much how local campaigns work.” 

Davidsen then shockingly, admitted that Facebook gave the Democrat Party the ability to ingest the entire social network of the U.S. that’s on Facebook, “which is most people”. Davidsen told the audience, “Where this gets complicated is that freaked Facebook out, right? So they shut off the feature. Well, the Republicans never built an app to do that. So, the data’s out there. You can’t take it back, right? So the Democrats have this information. So, when they look at a voter file, and someone comes to them, they can immediately be like, ‘Oh, here are all of the other people that they know, and here are the people that they can help us persuade because they’re really good friends with this person.’ The Republicans do not have this information, and will not get that information.”

Davidsen confessed, ” I’m a Democrat, so you know, maybe I could argue that maybe that’s a good thing. But really, it’s not in the overall process, right? So, that wasn’t thought all the way through, and now there’s a disadvantage of information, that seems unfair. But I’m not Facebook, so these are the realities.”

Watch this clip from the video:

Near the end of the video, Carol Davidsen is told that her time is up and that she needs to end her discussion. Davidsen made it clear that she still had time remaining that she planned to use to continue her presentation, but claimed the organizers “dragged” her “off stage” before her time was up.  (The video in its entirety can be seen in her tweet below)

I start talking about Facebook at around minute 18 [mark], and had more to say, before getting dragged off stage because i didn’t understand the clock in the back of the room. Ha”

Davidsen finally tweeted about the price discrimination that keeps her up at night. She also talks about the potential ugliness that comes out in an algorithm based world that allows micro-targeting. Could she also have been referring to the algorithms that many have alleged are used to target conservative news sources on Facebook?

After the news broke about how Cambridge Analytica used data from Facebook users to help the Trump campaign win the election, Davidsen began to tweet the truth about how the Obama campaign, with the help of Facebook, extracted data from “most people” in the U.S.

Davidsen tweeted about how Facebook didn’t stop the campaign from sucking out their whole social graph:

Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.

Davidsen tweeted about Facebook’s personal involvement and commitment to helping Obama win his 2012 reelection bid. She tweeted: They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.

Davidsen also revealed that she is 100% positive that Facebook actively recruits and staffs people that are on the other side (Democrats). I am also 100% positive that Facebook activity [actively?] recruits and staffs people that are on the other side.

Davidsen tweeted about how the massive mining of data from Facebook for the Obama campaign made her feel “creepy”: I worked on all of the data integration projects at OFA. This was the only one that felt creepy, even though we played by the rules, and didn’t do anything I felt was ugly, with the data.

Davidsen wasn’t the only person tweeting about how Facebook allowed the Democrat Party to access their user’s profiles.

Daniel Nguyen tweeted a New York Times article that discussed Facebook’s passive attitude about the Obama campaigns massive data mining project that was “technically against their [Facebook’s] terms:

It’s important to recognize there are differences between how Obama and Cambridge Analytics purported to use mass data from FB. But FB’s response to discovering data harvesting in 2012 (which was technically against their terms) was still ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

When Facebook CEO  Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress to address their privacy issues, Representative Steve Scalise (R-TX)  asked Zuckerberg about Davidsen’s remarks. Zuckerberg sidestepped the question, saying they didn’t allow them to do anything they wouldn’t allow any other campaign to do. Of course, they wouldn’t, no one else had the technology the Obama campaign had, and according to Davidsen, once the Obama campaign retrieved the massive amounts of personal data from their users, Facebook shut down the ability for anyone else (including the Republican Party) to do the same thing.

Here’s a great explanation of how Facebook, Google, and Twitter’s political activism can be, and how easily these two social media giants and the most powerful search engine in the world can destroy our democracy.


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