Meet the guy who blew the lid on Facebook's data breach
Technology / 22 March 2018, 12:27pm / Staff Reporter
CAPE TOWN – Who is Christopher Wylie?
The 28-year-old data scientist has been pushed into the international spotlight after coming forward as the whistle-blower on the Facebook data breach.
Cambridge Analytica is being accused of taking the Facebook data of 50 million US voters. The data was then used to help target or manipulate voters with personalised political advertising.
Wylie is a Canadian-born national and has been working with Observer journalist, Carole Cadwalladr for almost a year. His one aim: To expose Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.
The date scientist was working at Cambridge Analytica on President Donald Trump's election team and the assisted on work related to the UK during the EU referendum.
He was providing Cadwalladr with leaks for almost a year as an anonymous source.
Cadwalladr was the person who convinced him to go public.
Wylie has been seen as the millennials' first great whistle-blower, even though he left school without any qualification.
ADHD, Dyslexia and no education
Wylie left school at the age of 16. He was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia but found himself embroiled in politics after really understanding how the internet works, according to the Observer.
At the age of 17, Wylie was already working in Canadian politics. He then started learning all things data from the President Obama’s national director of targeting.
He taught himself to code and at the age of 20, he was ensiled at the prestigious London School of Economics.
While studying he worked for the UK’s Liberal Democrats. He assisted with upgrading their databases and voter targeting system.
His connections at the Liberal Democrats helped him connect with people that would then form Cambridge Analytica.
He was responsible for testing all of Cambridge Analytica’s “crazy ideas” after he realised that people personal preferences online could be used to analyse how they viewed politics.
Connecting the dots to Steve Bannon
Bannon was on a plane and was sitting next to a cyberwarfare expert when he heard about Wylie and his work at SCL Group, that would later become Cambridge Analytica.
At the time Bannon was still the editor of Breitbart News but saw an idea here and teamed up with hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer. Mercer, Bannon, Wylie and Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix worked together to create Cambridge Analytica.
This super team then connected with the University of Cambridge psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan and his company, Global Science Research.
The team then took Facebook data and created a personality test app that was aimed at targeting US voters.
"We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on," Wylie confessed.
In 2014 Wylie left Cambridge Analytic and then went to Facebook in 2016 to inform them of the data breach.
"All I had to do was tick a box and sign it and send it back, and that was it," Wylie said about the letter he received from the company's lawyers. "Facebook made zero effort to get the data back."
Facebook was contacted by the Observer last week when these allegations became public. The social media company then suspended Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook then blocked Wylie from accessing his own Instagram and Facebook accounts.
In a statement Facebook said: "Protecting people's information is at the heart of what we do, and we require the same from people who operate apps on Facebook."
The ravenous' gay vegan
Cadwalladr said she would describe Wylie as: "Clever, funny, bitchy, profound, intellectually ravenous, and compelling.”
She sees him as a master storyteller and a “politicker”.
"She said Wylie describes himself as the gay Canadian vegan who ended up creating Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindf--k tool."
On Tuesday Wylie tweeted that he had accepted an invitation to testify before US House Intelligence Committee, the US House Judiciary Committee & the UK Parliament Digital Committee.
He said, “it’s time for our democratic institutions to take control”.