John Naughton: How can Facebook change when it exists to exploit personal data? | John Naughton

The tech giant’s astonishing growth is entirely based on drawing on what it knows of its users, whatever its CEO might sorrowfully tell us

Watching Alexander Nix and his Cambridge Analytica henchmen bragging on Channel 4 News about their impressive repertoire of dirty tricks, the character who came irresistibly to mind was Gordon Liddy. Readers with long memories will recall him as the guy who ran the “White House Plumbers” during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Liddy directed the Watergate burglary in June 1972, detection of which started the long chain of events that eventually led to Nixon’s resignation two years later. For his pains, Liddy spent more than four years in jail, but went on to build a second career as a talk-show host and D-list celebrity. Reflecting on this, one wonders what job opportunities – other than those of pantomime villain and Savile Row mannequin – will now be available to Mr Nix.

The investigations into the company by Carole Cadwalladr, in the Observer, reveal that in every respect save one important one, CA looks like a standard-issue psychological warfare outfit of the kind retained by political parties – and sometimes national security services – since time immemorial. It did, however, have one unique selling proposition, namely its ability to offer “psychographic” services: voter-targeting strategies allegedly derived by analysing the personal data of more than 50 million US users of Facebook.

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John Naughton: JFK’s real message from beyond the grave – don’t believe everything you hear | John Naughton

In a world where every digital recording could be fake, our relationship with information has never been more precarious

When John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on 22 November 1963, he was on his way to deliver a speech to the assembled worthies of the city. A copy of his script for the ill-fated oration was later presented by Lyndon Johnson to Stanley Marcus, head of the department store chain Neiman Marcus, whose daughter was in the expectant audience that day.

Related: The Guardian view on fake video: a trick too far | Editorial

[This] pollution of our information ecosystem might pose an existential crisis for democracy

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