The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope


  One of the people MBS told about the discussion with Kushner was UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, according to a source who talks frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers. MBS bragged to the Emirati crown prince and others that Kushner was “in his pocket,” the source told The Intercept.

The Washington Post reported this week that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster “expressed early concern that Kushner was freelancing U.S. foreign policy.” According to the Post, Tillerson once asked staffers in frustration: “Who is the secretary of state here?”

Indeed, Kushner has grown so close to the Saudi and Emirati crown princes that he has communicated with them directly using WhatsApp, a reasonably secure messaging app owned by Facebook and popular in the Middle East, according to a senior Western official and a source close to the Saudi royal family.  Alex EmmonsRyan GrimClayton SwisherMarch 22 2018, 

 UNTIL HE WAS stripped of his top-secret security clearance in February, presidential adviser Jared Kushner was known around the White House as one of the most voracious readers of the President’s Daily Brief, a highly classified rundown of the latest intelligence intended only for the president and his closest advisers.

Kushner, who had been tasked with bringing about a deal between Israel and Palestine, was particularly engaged by information about the Middle East, according to a former White House official and a former U.S. intelligence professional. Continue reading


March 23, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Links between cellphone electromagnetic radiation and heart and brain tumours

Italian study links cellphone radiation to heart and-brain tumors    Alex Formuzis (202) 667-6982, MARCH 22, 2018   WASHINGTON – Laboratory animals exposed to cellphone radiation developed heart and brain tumors similar to the types seen in some studies of human cellphone users, according to an Italian study published today. EWG said the findings reinforce the need for people, especially children, to exercise caution when using cellphones and other radiation-emitting devices.

The study by the Ramazzini Institute, published in the journal Environmental Researchsupports the findings of the federal National Toxicology Program. Last month, the NTP reported that male rats exposed to radio-frequency radiation at levels including those emitted by cellphones had a greater chance of developing malignant brain cancer, and tumors in the heart and other organs.

The Ramazzini Institute’s research found that male rats exposed to the radio-frequency radiation emitted by cellphones using GSM networks had a greater chance of developing heart tumors and hyperplasias affecting Schwann cells, which support the peripheral nervous system. Schwann cell tumors were also observed in human epidemiological studies of tumor incidence in cellphone users, and in the NTP studies of lab animals.

“The Italian study reinforces the need for a precautionary approach when it comes to radiation from phones and other devices, especially for young kids,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., senior science advisor at EWG. “Children’s bodies develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cellphone use. As new telecom networks are built around the country, in-depth assessment of children’s health risks from cellphone radiation is essential.”

In 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on  Cancer declared the kind of radiation emitted by cellphones a “possible carcinogen” based on human epidemiological studies that found increased gliomas and acoustic neuromas in long-term cellphone users. The data on health effects of cellphone radiation in laboratory animals collected by the NTP and the Ramazzini Institute studies support the earlier evidence from human studies that cellphone radiation increases the risk of cancer.

EWG has been at the forefront of public interest organizations raising concerns about connections between cellphone use and cancer. EWG’s 2009 Science Review on Cancer Risks and Children’s Health summarized comprehensive studies showing a variety of health harms linked to long-term cellphone use. This included increased risk of brain tumors; lower sperm counts, motility and vitality among men; neurological effects; and changes in brain metabolism.

While the public debate on cellphone radiation risks has focused on cancer, which  progresses slowly in response to lifelong exposures, a growing body of research suggests that even shorter exposures could cause harm. In a study published last year, Kaiser Permanente researchers reported that pregnant women exposed to radio-frequency radiation from sources such as wireless devices and cell towers had nearly a threefold greater frequency of miscarriage.

In December 2017, the state of California issued official guidelines advising cellphone users to keep phones away from their bodies. The state Department of Public Health also recommended that parents consider reducing the amount of time their children use cellphones, and encourage kids to turn the devices off at night.

To help concerned consumers, EWG has created tools and tips for reducing exposure to cellphone radiation. This includes EWG’s Guide to Safer Cellphone Use and Six Questions About Cellphone Radiation and Your Health.

For more information about how studies on laboratory animals can help answer the questions about human health risks from radio-frequency radiation, read EWG’s Comments to the National Toxicology Program on the NTP cellphone radiation study.

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Italy, radiation | 1 Comment

As Trump plans to weaken nuclear proliferation safeguards, lawmakers aim to strengthen them

Reuters 21st March 2018, U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill on Wednesday to ensure that countries
striking deals with Washington on sharing nuclear power technology abandon
fuel-making activities that could be altered to make material for nuclear
weapons. U.S. Representatives Ilea Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, and Brad
Sherman, a Democrat, introduced the bill as officials from Saudi Arabia
work with the administration of President Donald Trump on a deal that could
relax safeguards on nuclear proliferation.

March 23, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Theft of confidential information about Cattenom, Flamanville and Paluel nuclear power plants

France Info 21st March 2018, [Machine Translation] Sensitive information concerning the Cattenom,
Flamanville and Paluel nuclear power plants was stolen a few weeks ago in
Amnéville (Moselle). The facts go back to February 16th. On a parking lot
in Amnéville, Moselle, an employee of an EDF subcontractor had his
professional vehicle fractured. The thieves stole computer equipment
containing confidential information about the nuclear power plants Cattenom
(Moselle), Flamanville (Channel) and Paluel (Seine-Maritime).

March 23, 2018 Posted by | France, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

TEPCO in the dark about conditions inside shattered Fukushima nuclear reactors: they will now try aerial drones

World Nuclear News 22nd March 2018,Unmanned aerial system technology is being developed to fly into the containment vessels of the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan to assess their condition.

Tokyo Electric Power Company contracted the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) of the USA
to carry out the work. The greatest challenge in decommissioning the plant will be removing the fuel debris from the three reactors that suffered meltdowns in the March 2011 accident.

However, radiation levels in those reactor buildings remain too high for workers to enter. Therefore remotely
operated equipment, such as robots, is needed to carry out investigations and tasks within those areas. A number of ground- and underwater-based robotic systems have already been sent inside the containment vessels of
units 1, 2 and 3.

However, damage and high radiation levels have limited access to information vital to decontamination and decommissioning efforts.

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Bankruptcy for FirstEnergy means the end for its indebted nuclear power plants?

FirstEnergy Solutions bankruptcy restructuring likely, power plants would be closed or sold,, 23 Mar 18  By John Funk, The Plain Dealer  The Perry nuclear power plant, a source of jobs and tax revenues for 30 years in Northeast Ohio, could be shutdown or sold in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. The FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary that owns the company’s power plants has an accumulated debt of more than $2.8 billion. The old plants cannot generate power as cheaply as new gas turbine plants and wind farms. FirstEnergy has not been able to persuade state lawmakers or federal authorities to create special fees to subsidize its nuclear power plants and has made it clear in recent months that it wants to become a fully regulated company again. A bankruptcy case could be filed within a week. (Plain Dealer file )

March 23, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Fukushima governor ‘pushes safety of prefecture’s food’ on Europe tour

Attendants of a reception held at the Japanese Embassy in London on Thursday are served sake from Fukushima Prefecture.
LONDON – Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori on Thursday kicked off a tour of Britain and France with the goal of publicizing the safety of food from the prefecture.
In London, Uchibori met with officials of British importing companies to promote Fukushima products and develop sales channels.
He also paid a courtesy call to Mark Field, the United Kingdom’s minister of state for Asia and the Pacific. Uchibori told Field that the people of Fukushima are profoundly grateful for the warm, generous support received from Britain since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Before the meeting, Field enjoyed dried peaches from Fukushima given by the governor.
During a Thursday evening reception at the Japanese Embassy in London, some 200 Japanese and British guests tasted foods and drinks from Fukushima, including the prefecture’s specialty Ten no Tsubu rice dishes with wagyu, locally brewed sake and peach juice.
Uchibori’s tour was planned after the European Union in December lifted its restrictions on imports of some foods from Japan, including rice grown in Fukushima. The restrictions were imposed due to concerns over radioactive contamination from the nuclear disaster.

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

45 Lawsuits in Fukushima District Courts

A group of plaintiffs walk in front of Fukushima District Court in October 2017. The secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority will increase its number of legal staff from this spring to deal with lawsuits.
Japan’s nuclear regulator to hire more legal staff to respond to Fukushima-related lawsuits
Japan’s nuclear regulator will increase its number of legal staff from this spring to deal with lawsuits related to the Fukushima crisis, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.
The secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority will increase the number of staff at an office in charge of litigation to 22 in the fiscal year starting in April from the current 17. In fiscal 2012, when the body was launched, it only had five employees, the source said.
The secretariat said it was handling a total of 45 lawsuits as of March 1, of which 29 had been filed by over 10,000 plaintiffs nationwide including evacuees and victims of the Fukushima accident who are seeking damages from the state.
Among those 29 lawsuits, four of the five district courts that have already handed down rulings ordered the state to pay damages to the plaintiffs, rejecting the state’s claim that the accident “could not be foreseen.”
A lawyer representing the plaintiffs has criticized the expansion move, saying the state should not insist on fighting the lawsuits.
Izutaro Managi, a member of a lawyers’ group representing some 3,800 evacuees and accident victims in a lawsuit seeking damages from the state and the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, said, “The aim of the authority’s secretariat is to strengthen the state’s claim that it is not liable for causing the accident.”
“The state should rather reflect on the accident and accept its responsibility,” he said.
In addition to lawsuits related to the Fukushima evacuees and victims, the secretariat is also handling lawsuits filed by residents seeking to halt operations at nuclear plants or the construction of new ones.
New lawsuits could also be filed in the future as more nuclear power plants clear safety assessments by the authority to resume operations. Currently, 14 reactors at seven nuclear power plants have passed screenings under stricter regulations imposed after the Fukushima crisis triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

A Representative of Plaintiffs, Tokuo HayaKawa’s Statement in The Court

tokuo-hayakawa.jpgTokuo Hayakawa at the rally in Tokyo in January, 2018.


JIJI PRESS’s article

TEPCO Ordered to Pay 600 M. Yen to Fukushima Evacuees

The statement below is translated by Yoshihiro Kaneda. If it has mistakes, Yoshihiro Kaneda has responsibility for that.


2017 October 6th

To  The Iwaki branch of the Fukushima District Court

Plaintiff: Tokuo Hayakawa

1 I am the thirtieth chief priest of a mountain temple which has a history of over 600 years, but the temple will pass into nothingness in my lifetime. Ten parishioners already severed our relationship. I became a chief priest in 1977 and the temple was desolated even 30 years after the end of the World War 2 because we had about 100 parishioners.

I planed reviving original religious activities and events and improvement for the environment of the temple and was satisfied with its achievement that I did most of it for three decades and several years until March 11th. Especially, the improvement of the precincts, I exerted myself and I overlapped it with my thought which I wanted to live my late life with enjoying the beauty of nature. After retirement, I was comfortable and enjoyed the nature.

I was deprived of this achievement, satisfaction and enjoyment. I was deprived of happiness which I could earn by living for it. I lost my spiritual support to live the rest of my life. What was my life?


2 I am living this way now, but there were evacuees abandoned themselves to grief and then, they comitted suicide.

I heard about a married couple who lost their jobs due to the nuclear accident and heaved sighs repeatedly in Aizuwakamatsu. They strangled their disabled son and they hanged themselves along at the railroad of the Tadami Line.

There was a man,102 years old, who said “Do I have to move from here? I want to live here. I have lived too long.” The man had a rope around his neck and hanged himself.

A cattle farmer who was a 54-year-old man committed suicide, left a message on the wall of the cattle shed in Souma “if there was no nuclear power plant.”

The nuclear accident took a job from a person who was a hundred kilometers away and took an old man’s home, who has lived a hundred-year life and forced a man to kill himself, who had no idea how to pay back his debt because he could not earn money due to a ban on the shipment of milk.


There are many other people who committed suicide.

Our defense counsel won two epochal decisions by suing for the people who killed themselves at the Fukushima District Court.

The appeal of the man whose wife burnt herself to death was admitted. After the ruling, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) officials came to his house to apologize but they lost words because the husband rejected point-blank and said “But my wife will never return,” on the scene.

 The wife lost her husband by suicide. Her appeal was admitted and officials of TEPCO went to her home to apologize. But she said “I don’t accept,” and the officials were amazed and silent.

One of the plaintiff’s statements stated that he barely stopped his suicide. I listened to all of the statements by the plaintiffs. While listening to each statement, I always presumed regrets of those who committed suicide.


3  The nuclear accident deprived all of regions and societies we lived, people’s lives and existences. We cannot ever fully recover from this problem again. We lost the places where we were born. The judges witnessed this themselves.

“If only there was no nuclear power plant,” “If only the nuclear accident did not happen.” Those words cannot pierce the heart of the officials of TEPCO. That is the true nature of TEPCO that has not changed after the accident. If they were human, these words would reach them.

Did our statements touch TEPCO? Or their hearts? I will continue to appeal until our victims’ lodgment reach the hearts of TEPCO officials. That is our regretful thought.


4  Through the trial, it became clear that the bottom cause of the accident was a top priority of profit seeking.

However, TEPCO does not admit their responsibility of the accident and, regarding our compensation, they said: “Go to law.” Can we forgive this injustice?

Originally, why did TEPCO build a nuclear plant in Fukushima? Can they explain? They cannot.

We are not only ones who are victims and evacuees by the nuclear accident and our regions are not the only victimized regions. Victims are struggling at the various regions and the evacuation areas. Among them, our plaintiffs are only forced evacuees and what rules the trial is the local Iwaki branch which is nearest court from the nuclear power plant which caused the accident. Those who will rule are the judges who live in Iwaki and have chances to meet the evacuees. We were facing the trial with feeling the significance of that. Our lawyers were aware of this profoundly.


5  “Due to the geographical and social conditions, a location of a nuclear power plant must be the place which does not have a big city in its neighboring region and the place which is sparsely populated.” (The Development Vision of the Futatba Atomic Energy District) “We confirmed that both towns of Okuma and Futaba were the best place to build the nuclear power plant. In the background that the confirmation went along well, there were facts such as that EPCO manipulated carefully after asking to build the nuclear power plant. (Coexistence and Co-evolution-With the Region-The Course of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant 45 years, A History of the first thirty years of Tokyo Electric Power Company)

These are the reason and the circumstance but “why must the location of the nuclear power plant be the place which is sparsely populated?” “why do they manipulate carefully?”

These questions suggest that TEPCO expects a danger and severe accident. If they explained the danger and severe accident to residents, there would be no sacrifices and victims who said if only there was no nuclear power plant.


6  TEPCO had various big and small accidents one after the other immediately after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant started business operation and they hid the accident which might become a huge accident. Whenever the accident happened, they were designated their slow report and, furthermore, they falsified and fabricated the data and so on. That situation became normal and worsen. It was no wonder that a huge accident could happen at anytime without the earthquake and tsunami. That situation lasted 40 years. That was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

On the other hand, TEPCO circulated an enormous quantity of various handouts and brochures, providing “safety myth” as the measure to local residents. Among those, there was a brochure, titled Calm and Lively Way. Support for Futaba Vigor Life! Futaba with ties: In order to tie strongly between the power plant and residents of Futaba County forever.

They ignored the safety measure we asked whenever strange things happened to the nuclear power plant. In the same breath, they distributed the handouts like that.


7  In 1972, the Association of Naraha Town Residents was formed with the resolution: “We protect beautiful natural mountains and rivers and peaceful lives of townspeople and lives of us and our posterity.” In 1973, the same associations were formed in Tomioka and Okuma. On September in the same year the prefecture association was formed with the agreement: “We are against nuclear and thermal power plants because we cannot obtain the confirmation of safety and those plants are not true regional development and those are against people’s will.” So we, both town and prefecture people were appealing its risk.

One year after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the organizations of anti-nuclear residents all over Japan took a leading part and they formed “The Nuclear Power Plant Problem Residential Movement National Contact Center.” Since then, in order to establish measures for safety and emergency, we proposed and negotiated with the government and each electric power company every year.

We continued to warn them with publishing a pamphlet titled “Next Huge Accident Will Be in Japan” in 1992.


8  On February, 2005, TEPCO admitted the nuclear power plants in Fukushima could not be withstood by a tsunami in the Chilean Tsunami class becuase we had accused them. But they neglected one and all of our frequented drastic measure claims. Then, the huge accident happened. The Fukushima nuclear accident was an accident that was waiting to happen. Can we deny it?


9  According to “The Result of the Root Cause Analysis” in Summary of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident and Nuclear Safety Reform Plan, published after the accident, on March 3, 2013, by TEPCO, TEPCO says “the fact of admitting a need of tsunami protection measures leads that the power plant at that time is not safe. As a result, we were convinced that we would be required nimious measures by Nuclear Regulatory Commission and local residents.”

These things like this are TEPCO’s 40 years history. In consequence, what a huge damage we got! This is our one word “if only there was no nuclear accident.”


10  On August 5th, 2015, Naomi Hirose, CEO of TEPCO was asked the question “Do you acknowledge that the accident was a man-made disaster as a perpetrator?” He answered firmly  “Honestly, I have never thought seriously whether the accident was a man-made disaster or natural disaster until now.” On December 8th, 2016, Yoshiyuki Ishizaki, the president of TEPCO Fukushima Revital Headquarter, said to one victim “the nuclear power plant is  a necessary evil.” They made incautious remarks that they have not understood the calamity of victims and the stricken area at all four and five years after the accident.


11  We dare to bring a case before the Iwaki branch which is the closest local court from the location of the stricken area and the nuclear power plant. It is because we assure only this local court can understand suffering of victims and also they can hand down the decision which will take the part of the victims.

If this local court will hand down a decision which overlooks our actual conditions of damage and the situations of the hometown, we, victims, will not be relieved. All the more, please, the court, according to the facts and truth, hand down a decision for which we are able to hold a hope to live. We and many victims are suffering the damage that “it is impossible to verbalize.”

The Mainichi’s article is below.
Another court orders TEPCO to pay damages to Fukushima evacuees


March 23, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

The Cambridge Analytica scandal – a chance to take control of our data 

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass — Image by ©

Don’t waste the Cambridge Analytica scandal: it’s a chance to take control of our data   Guardian  @Scottludlam,  23 Mar 2018 

March 23, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Radioactive Cesium 134 from Fukushima nuclear disaster – found in British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver Sun 12th March 2018, A radioactive metal from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan has
been discovered in the Fraser Valley, causing researchers to raise the
alarm about the long-term impact of radiation on B.C.’s west coast.
Examination of a soil sample from Kilby Provincial Park, near Agassiz, has
for the first time in this province found Cesium 134, further evidence of
Fukushima radioactivity being transported to Canada by air and water.

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Canada, environment, Fukushima continuing | 1 Comment

Britain’s nuclear politic s mess – what to do about Euratom ?

BBC 20th March 2018, The government has been defeated twice in the House of Lords over its plans  for nuclear co-operation after Brexit. Peers voted by 265 to 194 to insist the UK should not withdraw from the European nuclear agreement, Euratom, until a replacement deal is in place. They also backed a plan requiring the  UK to report to Parliament regularly on its future arrangements with Euratom.

MPs are likely to try and overturn the changes to the Nuclear Safeguards Bill when it returns to the Commons. Euratom, an association which is legally separate from the EU but governed by the EU’s institutions, covers issues such as the transport of radioactive materials, including those used in medical treatments, or in nuclear power stations.

The government has said it wants to establish a new domestic nuclear regime as well as negotiate a nuclear agreement with the EU once the UK leaves on 29 March 2019.

Politics Home 21st March 2018, Peers voted by 265 to 194 to insist Britain should not withdraw from
Euratom on the day the UK leaves the EU unless a replacement has been
reached. Ministers were dealt a second blow through a Labour amendment
which demanded more regular reporting to parliament of future arrangements.

Belfast Telegraph 20th March 2018, The Tory administration is accused of ‘playing Russian roulette’ with
the UK’s energy security by quitting Europe’s nuclear regulator.

March 23, 2018 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

1960 Paris Convention part of undemocratic government support for nuclear industry

La Libre 19th March 2018, More than 40 scientists, intellectuals, engineers and artists: “It is time
for the political world to assume Fukushima” (OPINION).It is time for the
political world to take its mistakes and put an end to the nuclear

This is not only illegitimate, but it is also an extreme threat
to our future. On June 25 last year, 50,000 people joined hands to demand
the closure of the Tihange plant. The number of protesters surprised many.
Also notable was the lack of reaction from the political world as a result
of this extraordinary event.

There are reasons for this apparent lethargy of the leaders of this country, in the face of this popular demonstration,
perhaps starting with a feeling of guilt, which would be quite appropriate.

Indeed, what has prevailed in the implementation of the nuclear industry is
the lack of democratic debate and false state propaganda, that of an energy
that would be unlimited, cheap and safe; as we recalled the commemoration
of the seventh anniversary of Fukushima, the second accident of a nuclear
power station which has no end, after that of Chernobyl in 1986.

More serious still, in 1960, the leaders of 16 European countries, including
Belgium, agreed to sign the Paris Convention which was intended to limit
the financial liability of the operator in the event of a nuclear accident,
no insurance company willing to cover the nuclear risk considered too high.

Without this unique Convention, the nuclear industry could never have developed in Europe.

It is worth mentioning here that a major accident in Tihange would mean the end of life as we know it and, in fact, the end of Wallonia as a region. That the cost of such an accident would amount to
several trillions of euros, without it being possible to quantify the
sanitary and psychological misery into which the Walloons, sentenced,
either to leave their country abandoning all their property – but to go
where, or to live in a contaminated territory for the poorest of them. That
on this amount, the operator, Engie-Electrabel, would have to pay only 1.2
billion, less than its profit of certain years and less than one thousandth
of the cost of the disaster.

March 23, 2018 Posted by | EUROPE, Legal, politics international | Leave a comment

For social media it’s a watershed moment – the Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Aral described Cambridge Analytica as “a nefarious actor with a very skewed understanding of what’s morally right and wrong.” He pointed out that there’s an important line to be drawn between the appropriate uses of technology “to produce social welfare” through platforms like Facebook, and the work that Cambridge Analytica did. “It would be a real shame if the outcome was to, in essence, throw the baby out with the bathwater and say that the only solution to this problem is to pull the plug on Facebook and all of these social technologies because you know there’s no way to tell the difference between a bad actor and a good actor.”

All said, sophisticated data analytics “may also be used for generating a lot of good,” said Nave. “Personalized communication may help people to keep up with their long-term goals [such as] exercise or eating healthier, and get products that better match one’s needs. The technology by itself is not evil.”

Why the Cambridge Analytica Scandal Is a Watershed Moment for Social Media, Wharton University of Pennsylvania, 24 March 18      (MIC LISTEN TO THE PODCAST  – on original)  Jennifer Golbeck from the Univeristy of Maryland and MIT’s Sinan Aral discuss the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Serious concerns have arisen in the past week over how social media firms guard the privacy of their users’ personal data, and how the analytics of such data can influence voter preferences and turnout. Those worries follow a whistleblower’s account to The Observer newspaper in the U.K. about how Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm with offices in London and New York City, had unauthorized access to more than 50 million Facebook profiles as it micro-targeted voters to benefit Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In the fallout, Facebook faces its toughest test on privacy safeguards, and its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has been summoned by MPs in the U.K.He faces similar calls from the U.S. Congress and from India, with revelations that Cambridge Analytica worked to influence the 2016 Brexit referendum and elections in India, Nigeria and other countries as well.

U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller is already examining Cambridge Analytica’s ties with the Trump campaign as part of his probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Significantly, U.S. billionaire and conservative fundraiser Robert Mercer had helped found Cambridge Analytica with a $15 million investment, and he recruited former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who has since left the firm. The firm initially sought to steer voters towards presidential candidate Ted Cruz, and after he dropped out of the race, it redirected its efforts to help the Trump campaign.

 In order to gain insights into the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Knowledge@Wharton spoke to Wharton marketing professors Ron Berman and Gideon NaveJennifer Golbeck, director of the social intelligence lab and professor of information studies at the University of Maryland; and Sinan Aral, management professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Golbeck and Aral shared their views on the Knowledge@Wharton show on SiriusXM channel 111. (Listen to the full podcast using the player at the top of this page.)

“We’re experiencing a watershed moment with regard to social media,” said Aral. “People are now beginning to realize that social media is not just either a fun plaything or a nuisance. It can have potentially real consequences in society.”

The Cambridge Analytica scandal underscores how little consumers know about the potential uses of their data, according to Berman. He recalled a scene in the film Minority Report where Tom Cruise enters a mall and sees holograms of personally targeted ads. “Online advertising today has reached about the same level of sophistication, in terms of targeting, and also some level of prediction,” he said. “It’s not only that the advertiser can tell what you bought in the past, but also what you may be looking to buy.” ……..

Nave said the Cambridge Analytica scandal exposes exactly those types of risks, even as they existed before the internet era. “Propaganda is not a new invention, and neither is targeted messaging in marketing,” he said. “What this scandal demonstrates, however, is that our online behavior exposes a lot about our personality, fears and weaknesses – and that this information can be used for influencing our behavior.”

In Golbeck’s research projects involving the use of algorithms, she found that people “are really shocked that we’re able to get these insights like what your personality traits are, what your political preferences are, how influenced you can be, and how much of that data we’re able to harvest.”

………….An Expanding Scandal

Although Cambridge Analytica’s work in using data to influence elections has been controversial for at least three years, the enormity of its impact emerged last Saturday. The whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, who had worked with Cambridge Analytica, revealed to The Observer how the firm harvested profiles of some 50 million Facebook users. The same day, the New York Times detailed the role of Cambridge Analytica in the Trump campaign.

Facebook had allowed Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan access to data for an innocuous personality quiz, but Kogan had passed it on without authorization to Cambridge Analytica. Wylie told The Observer: “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 the entire company was built on.”

Meanwhile, the U.K.’s Channel 4 News captured in a video sting the strategies Cambridge Analytica used in its work to “change audience behavior,”………

Finding a Solution

Golbeck called for ways to codify how researchers could ethically go about their work using social media data, “and give people some of those rights in a broader space that they don’t have now.” Aral expected the solution to emerge in the form of “a middle ground where we learn to use these technologies ethically in order to enhance our society, our access to information, our ability to cooperate and coordinate with one another, and our ability to spread positive social change in the world.” At the same time, he advocated tightening use requirements for the data, and bringing back “the notion of informed consent and consent in a meaningful way, so that we can realize the promise of social media while avoiding the peril.”

Regulation, such as limiting the data about people that could be stored, could help prevent “mass persuasion” that could lead them to take action against their own best interests, said Nave. “Many times, it is difficult to define what one’s ‘best interest’ is – ……

Legitimate Uses of Data

Golbeck worries that in trying to deal with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook might restrict the data it makes available to researchers. “You don’t want this big piece of how society operates just blocked off, accessible only to Facebook and basically the people who are going to help them make money,” she said. “You want academic researchers to be able to study this.” But balancing that with the potential for some academic researchers to misuse it to make money or gain power is a challenge, she added

Aral described Cambridge Analytica as “a nefarious actor with a very skewed understanding of what’s morally right and wrong.” He pointed out that there’s an important line to be drawn between the appropriate uses of technology “to produce social welfare” through platforms like Facebook, and the work that Cambridge Analytica did. “It would be a real shame if the outcome was to, in essence, throw the baby out with the bathwater and say that the only solution to this problem is to pull the plug on Facebook and all of these social technologies because you know there’s no way to tell the difference between a bad actor and a good actor.”

All said, sophisticated data analytics “may also be used for generating a lot of good,” said Nave. “Personalized communication may help people to keep up with their long-term goals [such as] exercise or eating healthier, and get products that better match one’s needs. The technology by itself is not  evil.”

March 23, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, media | Leave a comment