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Home / Entertainment / Netflix's The Great Hack brings our data nightmare to life

Netflix's The Great Hack brings our data nightmare to life

If you would rather not think about including your life in a dystopian web of your own data, do not look at the new Netflix documentation The Great Hack .

But if you really want to see how data tracking, capture, and target tracking capture and bind the information we create until we get stifled by governments and businesses, you should not miss the movie premiering today has on the streaming platform and in theaters. Supposedly it tells the story of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but even if you already know this dirty story, the movie is worth a look. It uses the scandal masterfully to illustrate the data mining structures and algorithms that undermine individual freedom and democratic society. A Facebook Like and a Mem share at the same time.

"We were obsessed with bringing the algorithm's POV to life," says co-director Karim Amer, who filmed the film with Jehane Noujaim, and discusses the visual language the team developed for the Doc. "How the Algorithm Looks At If we could create a perspective for this algorithm, we could help people understand our own fragility and the superstructure that exists around us, and understand how it constantly absorbs and gathers your behavior . "

As The film is concise and thorough at the same time and has dominated the headlines around the world for two years following the election of President Trump. It begins with the news that Cambridge Analytica has unethically scrawled data from millions of Facebook users and used them to target vulnerable and influenceable voters to elect Donald Trump and pass the Brexit resolution. Then the precipitation is tracked. The film is booked by Professor David Carroll's effort to reclaim his own data from Cambridge ̵

1; a story that WIRED narrates extensively – but focuses primarily on former Cambridge employee Brittany Kaiser and her abrupt and somewhat startling decision to go against her To turn employers. Directors Amer and Noujiam follow her a few days after leaving the company in 2018. At some point, the systems that Cambridge and Facebook would use to influence democratic elections would be "weapons-ready" technology.

However, it is difficult to control a weapon You can not see, and here The Great Hack also offers something powerful and new to those who are familiar with data tracking and the entire history of Cambridge Analytica. It makes the normally invisible data of our everyday lives visible and how they are harvested and armed against us. Through thoughtful narration and emoji-inspired animations, Amer and Noujaim reveal the digital waste we leave when we email, search a search engine, search an ad, make a purchase, or like social media. And as alarming music rises in the background, the film uses this CGI to show how this data track is being used against us. Every day. To sell us things, to be chosen or to stay away from the polls, to share or unite with the whims of those who have paid enough to take our digital threads and weave them into a web of their own desires.

The power of animations is how real and familiar they appear. They do not look like science fiction. They look like what you see every day when you interact with your devices.

Amer says that they intentionally retain visual language fun. They wanted to point out that every little bit of data we create in the course of our day seems innocuous enough. "It's a bit like Emoji Land getting dark, it has to feel playful and nice and light and what could possibly go wrong?" he says. "The inspiration was fantasy, in fact. The data is that dust we exhaust that we publish." This dust, the film argues, is being stifled by Facebook, Silicon Valley, governments and Cambridge Analytica.

Like dust, this lucrative and dodgy business is so hard to see in practice – though we all share in it – that it's easiest to ignore it. Even people who sneak through eerie ad-targeting and know that misinformation campaigns can undermine democracy are hard to imagine how it all works. That's one of the reasons why so many people believe that their cell phone listens to them, as Carroll emphasizes in the film. Spying on your conversations with your phone is a simpler way to explain perfectly placed ads on your social media than the real answer: your data track has made your behavior and your desires predictable.

The visual language works perfectly in the middle of the movie As Kaiser and Carroll both watch, as Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in the spring of 2018. The directors give us a split screen to see their reactions and to splice in Carroll's tweets as well as public reactions to social media using the animations. At this moment, everything comes together: the tasks of the two main characters, the invisible structures of data and the influence of social media and the creators of the technology platform that has probably initiated the era and has the greatest power to change it. As Zuckerberg repeatedly blames the single wolf, Cambridge Analytica, for Facebook's privacy issues, Kaiser's eyes are turned. "Blame me, Mark, go with me," she says, shaking her head.

Kaiser turns out to be a frustrating, if fascinating, figure. Although she began her political career as a volunteer for Barack Obama, she wrote the first contract of Cambridge Analytica with the Trump campaign. In her role as Cambridge executive, she worked on the Leave.EU campaign, meeting with Julian Assange (a fact she later interviewed in the Mueller investigation). And although the directors show us very private conversations with her, it's never quite clear why she has finally spoken out against Cambridge Analytica. She can not even know herself. But that's part of what makes the film's journey so intimate with her. While the cameras follow Kaiser, she deals with the consequences of her actions in real time.

"When we met Brittany, we did not know what to think of her, and we questioned her motivations," says Noujaim. "We believe she was really looking for salvation to understand what she was involved in, and with her we learn."

A scene from The Great Hack .


The most compelling moments in the documentary emerge when Kaiser suddenly seems to understand that manipulating the data-tracking and psychology-based voting behavior is not a morally neutral act. We see her finding countless pieces of information on her work computer that seemed trivial to her at the time but that reveal the company's devious tactics. One particularly alarming discovery of her computer is the footage of a Cambridge Analytica sales pitch in which the company announces that voter turnout in Trinidad and Tobago has been suppressed by the creation of a viral youth movement that occurred to participants and outsiders. like an authentic phenomenon at the base. Instead, according to the sales argument, it was a carefully-tuned disinformation campaign in social media launched by Cambridge with the explicit intention of abusing existing racial tensions to achieve a specific election outcome: the now defunct Cambridge Analytica a symptom of a disease-afflicted society that can not be cured by closing a single data company.

"Cambridge is really a means of getting us into the history of Facebook and Silicon Valley in general and how exactly we need to focus on that," says Amer.

After viewing The Great Hack you have a much better understanding of tracking, harvesting and selling, and how it can be used against individuals, communities and nations. In this way, The Great Hack is a modern horror story. The bad guy is Cambridge Analytica, yes, but so are Facebook's and all the systems people can use to secretly manipulate people with the digital psychological clues they leave behind in their lives. It's scary because it's true.

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