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Targeted: My Inside Story of Cambridge Analytica and How Trump and Facebook Broke Democracy

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In this explosive memoir, a political consultant and technology whistleblower reveals the disturbing truth about the multi-billion-dollar data industry, revealing to the public how companies are getting richer using our personal information and exposing how Cambridge Analytica exploited weaknesses in privacy laws to help elect Donald Trump.
When Brittany Kaiser joined Cambridge Analytica – the UK-based political consulting firm funded by conservative billionaire and Donald Trump patron Robert Mercer – she was an idealistic young professional working on her fourth degree in human rights law and international relations. A veteran of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, Kaiser’s goal was to utilize data for humanitarian purposes, most notably to prevent genocide and human rights abuses. But her experience inside Cambridge Analytica opened her eyes to the tremendous risks that this unregulated industry poses to privacy and democracy.

Targeted is Kaiser’s eyewitness chronicle of the dramatic and disturbing story of the rise and fall of Cambridge Analytica. She reveals to the public how Facebook’s lax policies and lack of sufficient national laws allowed voters to be manipulated in both Britain and the United States, where personal data was weaponised to spread fake news and racist messaging during the Brexit vote and the 2016 election. But the damage isn’t done Kaiser warns; the 2020 election can be compromised as well if we continue to do nothing.

In the aftermath of the U.S. election, as she became aware of the horrifying reality of what Cambridge Analytica had done in support of Donald Trump, Kaiser made the difficult choice to expose the truth. Risking her career, relationships, and personal safety, she told authorities about the data industry’s unethical business practices, eventually testifying before Parliament.

Packed with never-before-publicly-told stories, Targeted goes inside the secretive meetings with Trump campaign personnel and details the promises Cambridge Analytica made to win. Throughout, Kaiser makes the case for regulation, arguing that legal oversight of the data industry is not only justifiable but essential to ensuring the long-term safety of our democracy.

400 pages, Audio CD

First published October 22, 2019

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Brittany Kaiser

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5 stars
176 (18%)
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337 (35%)
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326 (34%)
2 stars
83 (8%)
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27 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 154 reviews
39 reviews3 followers
January 2, 2023
Look, this book isn't a bad read. But I can't shake the feeling that the author is doing more of what she did for Cambridge Analytica - selling us a story and selling us a version of who she is.

First and foremost, its not all bad. The book is strongest where it covers the author's tools and techniques used to sell Cambridge Analytica's services. It provides a fascinating insight into a different world of international privilege, where shoulders are rubbed with the rich, country hopping is common and money is not a limitation.

Where it is let down is the complete lack of insight the author has about her pivotal role in selling Cambridge Analytica. Fingers are pointed at youthful naivety and ignorance, the persuasiveness of others, and at the problem of Big Data, Trump and Facebook. But this downplays the author's role and contribution. While we are asked to believe the author was taken for a ride by Alex Nix and didn't know the full extent of Cambridge Analytica's activities, we are also told the author felt like she owned the company, contributed to building it, and even believed she would be CEO one day. There is a really distinct lack of insight by the author into her choices, agency and role in creating this beast. The author almost asks us to believe she basically sleep walks into the moral cesspool of Cambridge Analytica and therefore is not morally culpable for her decision to sell its product - which is particularly jarring as we are asked in the final chapter to remember "you have agency!".

The book explains the author's inner turmoil: that she could be so involved in this mayhem despite her different politics, and that the family unit she grew up in is disintegrating due to no fault of her own. But these sections feel somewhat inauthentic when set between the almost endless description of the partying, global jetsetting and conference circuit presentations.

A good read, but glad I received as a present and didn't buy it myself!
Profile Image for kara.
9 reviews
January 4, 2020
Brittany ends her book saying “I’m an eternal optimist” and having read it cover to cover I can only say: that’s not how you spell “opportunist”.
Profile Image for Siobhan.
Author 2 books76 followers
December 18, 2019
Interesting to read alongside Christopher Wylie's Mindf*ck - the way each author frames their involvement (and each other) is illuminating... (ultimately, though, read Mindf*ck rather than this one, because it's more insightful and the tone not as heavily 'look I was a good liberal person I just was forced into doing questionable things')
Profile Image for gnarlyhiker.
340 reviews13 followers
December 3, 2019
In regards to CA/SCL and being a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie's Mindf*ck is a better and more informative read. Kaiser wallows in self-pity. She campaigns for and takes a selfie with ted cruz, but she was drunk. She joins the nra, but she can't believe she actually did it. When dumpty wins the presidency, she's shocked and appalled and in total denial that CA was its driving force. OK, maybe she could have faked a year and still have not a clue, but after the second year and well into the third year: I have swampland in Florida to sell you, darlin'.

one star for chapter 13

good luck
Profile Image for Rick Wilson.
607 reviews206 followers
April 8, 2020
Pretty good. Very interesting. The Cambridge Analytica stuff is terrifying. As a book, it a good portrait of how “good people can do bad things.” But while the CA parts are riveting, I found myself getting frustrated at the blindness Brittany followed the Blockchain trend as a redemptive arc.

Blockchain is NOT the solution to privacy. Maybe in 20 years when the energy demands are lower and unforeseen magic innovations have fundamentally changed computing. But for now, in 2020, blockchain is a slow, inefficient, energy intensive way to partially solve some of this. Frankly, having a single point of failure, like a digital ledger, seems awful. It’s amazing to see so many people who dont have technical knowledge go gangbusters for blockchain. It was one of my pet peeves of 2019, and for reasons like this.

I’m not sure Brittany is the person who should be doing privacy advocacy. Business development is not technical know how. I should know, I was in biz-dev and have shifted to the engineering side of things. It’s a long painful process of filling huge gaps in your knowledge. Her technical explanations seem very Jedi-hand-wave. And it would make sense that solutions stemming from that would be wonting.

It seems that the author was looking for an easy fix to many of the privacy issues she felt were being overlooked. Blockchain represented an "out," a sort of release valve to the cognitive dissonance being felt by an idealist in a predatory work environment. The way a drowning man may cling to a chunk of flotsam to keep afloat, it does not represent the ideal flotation device, but fulfills a need in a time of crisis.
Profile Image for Mucius Scaevola.
155 reviews18 followers
October 29, 2019
Miss Kaiser misses the irony of decrying Trump’s racist rhetoric while voicing her own contempt for “old white men”.

She is disconcerted that CA’s political campaigns relied on emotions rather than facts to persuade voters? But a democracy isn’t exactly peopled with dispassionate logicians. Indeed, the prefrontal cortex is hardly older than democracy itself. Until neurons are made of silicone, pathos will override logos.

More generally, the effect that social media is having on our political discourse is perhaps best captured by Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message”. The medium (newspaper, television, social media) shapes discourse. But this is nothing new. Nietzsche had nothing but contempt for the effect that newspapers were having on culture in the 19th century. Gutenberg was as responsible for the Reformation as Luther. Communication technologies can be as revolutionary as the content they transmit.

To her credit, Kaiser highlights the privacy concerns endemic to big data, and these are truly disconcerting. As for whether her Own Your Data campaign will succeed, we can only hope; but how central data is (and will increasingly become) to the information economy gives us cause for doubt. As Zuckerberg said, or is so often quoted as having said, privacy is no longer a social norm.
Profile Image for Adrian Timar.
8 reviews
August 15, 2020
A very up-to-date book about a modern issue that will get even more intense in the future -data privacy.

The book itself is an autobiography of Brittany, an ex- CA employee. While some of her motives are shady or just selfish, she has a great story to tell. If it wasn't for the fake news and illegal data possessions, Cambridge Analytica might have been one of the top marketing agencies in the world based on their methods of psychological profiling people.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in why Trump won, why is data privacy important or does online ads.

Profile Image for Peggy Ryan.
40 reviews3 followers
November 15, 2019
This was a really insightful read - I honestly didn’t enjoy how she was portrayed in The Great Hack (Netflix, 2019), because she came across as a villain, but getting to read this from her perspective really opened my eyes to what she went through
24 reviews
November 10, 2019
Holy S***

Although I had some awareness of the Cambridge Analytica story, I was horrified to learn the enormous and somewhat invisible role they played in the Cruz’ campaign, Trump’s election, Brexit and others. Even more frightening is what big data and corrupt players mean for future elections and, not to be too alarmist, but democracy in general. I so appreciate that Brittany Kaiser has had the courage to be a whistle blower and written this book. I need a few days to think about what I can do to play some small part in helping to address the issue. I do appreciate that she identified suggestions at the back of the book. For starters, I am even more motivated me to get more involved in the 2020 election, particularly on the data side, and certainly will encourage my colleagues to read the book.
Profile Image for Marco Pavan.
72 reviews5 followers
January 27, 2020
Willfully committing crimes, making lots of money out of it, and start shouting out loud only when shit goes south and the illicit is becoming known to the media and the masses, does not qualify as whistleblowing. instead this is a poor attempt at "monetizing" yet again over conscious misdeeds. Trump and Facebook didn't break democracy on their own: you and CA/SCL/AIQ were a center part of it. The narrative in this book is pathetic. it's also poorly written and flows awfully.
259 reviews2 followers
January 1, 2020
Everyone should read this book (or maybe one that better explains how all this data is being used against us), in conjunction with Thinking, Fast and Slow. Elections from now on will be won by whatever side betters uses our personal information - and I'm betting it will never be for altruistic purposes. Civilization is doomed. Happy New Year!
Profile Image for Jessica Scott.
Author 32 books1,266 followers
December 23, 2019
A few snippets of additional information that match Mindf*ck by Chris Wylie. Insightful and less technical than Wylie’s book. You can watch The Great Hack on Netflix for a snapshot of this books main ideas.
Profile Image for Rhiannon.
220 reviews5 followers
November 30, 2019
A must read. Kaiser does not come across well at all - clearly an opportunist rather than a whistle blower - but her account of the use and misuse of data and targeted advertising in elections globally (including the Trump and Leave campaigns) is eye opening and deeply worrying.
Profile Image for Kat Gale.
35 reviews76 followers
January 22, 2020
The most proactive information in the book are the 5 ways in which you can take control of your data:

1. Become digitally literate.
"I started in the data game with the highest of hopes to use data for good, and I saw what happens when unethical practices permeate the upper echelons of power. Some of the best tools for fighting back can be found at the DQ Institute’s website. There you can learn why digital intelligence is essential in the digital age and how to get up to scratch to protect yourself and those around you. Visit http://www.dqinstitute.org."

2. Engage with legislators.
"Inform yourself about upcoming legislative initiatives and get involved! Call and write to your legislators (you can find their details at https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials) and tell them that you support new, common-sense data-protection legislation, including the following pending bills and initiatives currently being debated, both in Congress and in the court of public opinion:

a. Senator Ed Markey’s CONSENT Bill would flip the script, requiring companies to obtain opt-in consent from users (rather than their being automatically opted in), develop reasonable data security practices, and notify users about all data collection and any data breaches.

b. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Corporate Executive Accountability Act would make corporate executives criminally liable for data breaches that occur as a result of negligence, as in the Equifax and Facebook data breaches.

c. Jim Steyer’s “You Are the Product” Legislative Initiative would enshrine legal recourse for abuse of your data and ownership rights. The related bill(s) have not yet dropped but are something to look out for, given that Jim and the Californians for Consumer Privacy were instrumental in translating GDPR into the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPR), the most comprehensive data legislation in the United States.

d. California governor Gavin Newsom’s Data Dividend Law, which has been introduced and is being debated, recognizes that people from whom personal data has been collected should be compensated for its use.

e. Senator Mark Warner’s DETOUR Act and associated bills that aim to regulate big tech by providing transparency into the value of consumers’ data, and to block manipulative “dark patterns” in the use of algorithms.

f. The state of Wyoming’s Digital Asset Legislation, which includes thirteen new laws already passed, and has many more in consideration during the upcoming legislative cycle. The benefits include definitions of your digital assets as intangible personal property, thereby ascribing rights to, and legal recourse for, their use. Learn more about the new tech capital of the United States here: http://www.wyoleg.gov.

g. The Government Accountability Project’s Scientific Integrity Act supports science whistleblowers by protecting those who hold power to account for abuse, waste, and negligence. We want more strong individuals to come forward for the greater good and to feel comfortable in doing so. Get involved here: http://www.whistleblower.org/supporting sciencewhistleblowers."

3. Help companies make the ethical choice.
"Show you care by implementing some of the ethical technology solutions listed at: http://designgood.tech. For an example of corporate thought leadership, check out Phunware (NASDAQ:PHUN), a Big Data company that is returning the data they hold to consumers and rewarding them for its use: http://www.phunware.com."

4. Ask regulators to hold abuses of power to account.
"The main issue with long, protracted investigations is that the individuals, campaigns, and companies at fault are often embarrassed but not punished. Many of them will not make ethical decisions unless forced to; hence my stress here on legislation and regulation. As such changes don’t happen internally, external pressure is needed...imposing mere fines on entities with deep pockets does not discourage them from breaking the law again. If we want to fix our broken democracy, we have to stand up and make our voices heard. Contact the Federal Election Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the British Electoral Commission to let them know you demand real solutions and a satisfactory completion of current investigations before the next elections."

5. Make ethical choices in your own digital life.
"Choose to question negative news articles. Refrain from sharing messages that incite anger or fear. Choose not to engage in the negativity, the harassment, or the targeting. If you run a company, give your customers transparency and opt-in consent. Explain to them the benefits of the data they are sharing; you will reap greater rewards with open communication. Do not engage in trickery, and do not sell data to third parties without letting your customers know and giving them the choice to opt out. Do not use underhanded tactics to get people’s attention; dark ads and divisive rhetoric have driven our societies apart too easily, and with just the click of a button. Dedicate yourself to not falling into the trap of convenience. This is not a time to remain idle—we need action from every person."
August 25, 2022
I devoured this book. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about Brittany's experience and learning about the way our data has been used.

I really appreciate that Brittany very rarely paints any character in an exclusively negative fashion. I don't feel that she placed blame or pointed a finger, which, I believe made her a much more reliable narrator. I feel like her describing herself before, during and after her involvement with CA just shows how much of an effect this tactic can have on even the most educated of us.

Although I am not convinced that there are not some things she may be covering up by way of this book, I do not believe that she was making any excuses for her involvement.

I enjoyed this book much more than Christopher Wylie's (though I did thoroughly enjoy his as well-especially the technical aspect) because Brittany didn't focus as much on Trump or his campaign, and didn't come across as bitterly as Wylie.

Thanks for telling your story Brittany. If you ever get the chance, I would love to hear more about your life prior to CA. I would also love to see something positive come from this ability to study human nature as it has never been studied before. There is so much more to this new understanding than winning elections and making money.

(I don't usually post reviews, but seeing as though almost all of the reviews for this book contain some sort of negative commentary I thought I would.-although posting on social media regarding a book on data protection is kind of ironic )
47 reviews
May 10, 2021
Wenn ich könnte würde ich das Buch in zwei Abschnitte einteilen und dem ersten (datenbasierten) Teil 4 Sterne geben, dem zweiten (persönlichen) Teil hingegen nur zwei.
Ich habe bereits „Mindfuck“ von Chris Wylie gelesen und war von diesem Buch so fasziniert wie geschockt. Über Brittany Kaisers Buch habe ich mich direkt im Anschluss hergemacht und was soll ich sagen.. ich kann nicht ganz alles glauben, was sie sagt. Dass sie von all dem, was passiert ist, nichts mitbekommen hat? In meinen Augen eher unwahrscheinlich, wenn man bedenkt wie lange sie dort gearbeitet hat. Der erste Teil des Buchs ist sachlich und fachlich sehr gut erzählt, ich konnte dem ganzen Folgen und Parallelen zu Mindfuck ziehen. Doch im persönlichen zweiten Teil redet sie sich meiner Meinung nach eher aus der Affaire. Sie scheint gemerkt zu haben, dass ihr das Wasser bis zum Hals steht und hat einen Weg nach draußen gesucht. Mehr als der Versuch einer Rechtfertigung ist das für mich leider nicht.
Profile Image for Aneta Ilnicka.
45 reviews
January 1, 2022
Cały czas mam poczucie, że Brittany podjęła decyzję o zostaniu sygnalistką zdecydowanie za późno, przez co nie ufam jej intencjom. W moich oczach uciekła z tonącego statku i zagrała na siebie. Niemniej nigdy nie zapomnę tego, czego dowiedziałam się o użyciu teorii wielkiej piątki osobowości do profilowania/targetowania odbiorców politycznego przekazu. To, że uczelnie wyższe dostają granty od rządu by tworzyć psychotesty badające osobowosc pod płaszczykiem pytań w stylu "jakim zwierzęciem jestes" to jest jakaś patologia.
Profile Image for Emily.
177 reviews2 followers
January 30, 2020
This was an easy listen and moved at a decent pace. The writing is pretty good. My problem with it is that it comes across more as a memoir/mea culpa than a revelation and an insight into big data. In terms of morality, the question of "what would you do in my situation?" seems to be the biggest, and that seems largely beside the point.
January 1, 2022
Veldig interessant bok, som har vært på listen min i typ ett år nå. Spennende - og skremmende - lesing, men samtidig en viktig bok, selv om jeg føler Kaiser tar litt lite ansvar for det hun faktisk var med på, og det virker som om hun unnskylder alt med naivitet og det faktum at hun i bunn og grunn er demokrat.
Profile Image for Lynn.
3,171 reviews54 followers
February 13, 2022
Own Your Own Data

Brittany Kaiser worked for Cambridge Analytica on BREXIT, and 2016 American Presidential campaign for Trump. She also worked on French and Mexican political campaigns. She explains what Cambridge did and what was so successful. She now tries to educate people on the harm of big data. She turned whistleblower after Facebook mentioned Cambridge Analytica and how they used Facebook.
Profile Image for Judy.
406 reviews7 followers
July 25, 2020
Big data is manipulating people's thoughts and actions. The antidote is to question and educate yourself. Fact check, consider the source etc. We are entering a new world and if it is not kept in check, we're in for a fall.
Profile Image for Mateusz Romanowski.
60 reviews3 followers
September 16, 2020
literacko 3/10
wiedza o samym CA i wewnętrznej walce, kiedy okazuje się, że przyłożyłaś niechcący rękę do Trumpa i Brexitu 5/10
December 18, 2019
Disclaimer: I read the physical book and accidentally selected the audio CD version on here.

When I saw that there was a second book on this topic that came out this year, I was very intrigued. I read Chris Wylie's book about a month ago, and I was shocked and appalled and it led to my refusing to post any more information on Facebook ever again. (I can't delete it, regrettably, for personal reasons) This book, to me at least, seems infinitely more credible. Not only is it a fuller account of the whole Cambridge Analytica/related groups fiasco, it also seems more plausible and less secret agent, behind the scenes, this is how the world really works. Additionally, Kaiser's criticisms of Wylie himself rang true, even considering his book and the content therein. That is not to say that I take back my recommendation of his book; you should still read it, just read this one first and take his with a grain of salt where the two accounts differ.

All of that said, this book is horrifying. The abuse of data about our personal lives should give anyone pause when considering using and posting on social media. We really need to to reconsider how much we are willing to share with the world, particularly in light of accounts that uncover those we are sharing with without even wanting to. I truly believe that there is nothing less at stake than the future of democracy in our age. Steps MUST be taken to stop the totalitarianism of big data before it is too late. Stop sharing, stop liking, relearn propriety and privacy, and maybe we may have a chance.
Profile Image for Roshni Bhattacharya.
80 reviews7 followers
December 17, 2019
One book I'd recommend to all to read in this day and age when data is gold! Humans have ceased to exist. To corporations we are just a bunch of datasets and social media platforms are ready to give us up for a quick buck (well, a lot of bucks). It was scary to see how companies like Cambridge Analytica were capable of shaking the very foundation on which the pillars of democracy stands. Anybody who is interested in BIg Data and its consequences on the world, should definitely get their hands on this book and make sure they go through it cover to cover.

At times I felt Brittany went too repetitive about her involvement as an intern during the Obama campaign but it might be for the reason that she has been associated with the Trump campaign even when she clearly states that she didn't want any part of it.

Trump campaign's postmortem was extremely scary and worrisome. If not the whole book, I'd say read that chapter only. You might want to stay away from Facebook for the rest of your lives!
April 15, 2020
¡OMG, QUÉ TEMAZO! Tan apasionante como delicado. Lo que ocurrió en Cambridge Analytica debería servir como base para que TODOS seamos conscientes de lo valioso que pueden llegar a ser nuestros datos y el PODER que estamos dando a las personas que los están recopilando y analizando.

La historia de Brittany es simplemente impresionante: los personajes influyentes actuales con los que se ha codeado, poder ver cómo los datos pueden transformar la realidad (para bien o para mal) y la descripción de algunos de los casos que ella vivió en carne propia y han hecho historia. Todo esto te dejará de piedra y con mucho miedo del porvenir...

Me cuesta sinceramente creer TAL nivel de ingenuidad por parte de Brittany, sobre todo cuando queda claro desde el primer momento lo inteligente que es. No digo que supiera todo lo que había detrás del negocio, pero "no hay mayor ciego que el que no quiere ver" y ella, por diversos motivos, escogió hacer la vista gorda en ciertos aspectos. De hecho, a través del libro puedes sentir que empezó a plantearse hablar porque ya estaba en una encrucijada de la cual no podía salir.

Este libro, aunque es apasionante, creo que si el tema no te interesa realmente o no tienes claro el poder de los datos, podría hacerse un poco pesado debido a la profundidad de explicación.
Profile Image for Epsilon.
20 reviews2 followers
October 31, 2019
After seeing the Netflix movie I approached this title with a huge dose of scepticism. While reading it however it stirred up lots of emotions and thoughts and it also challenged me to revisit my own positions in respect to data privacy and fake news. And I think that this is something we need to do more often these days.
The book might not be an easy read for every one due to heavy use of reference to data analytical topics in some parts - regardless I find It a fascinating and important read providing authors detailed account and perceptions of certain social-political events from the last several years.
Profile Image for Cherry Wang.
118 reviews5 followers
December 30, 2020
Profile Image for Ietrio.
6,564 reviews25 followers
October 22, 2019
The evil one percenters are hiring powerful sorcerers that are putting you under a spell. Here's Kaiser, the paladin "telling it how it is".
Displaying 1 - 30 of 154 reviews

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