a new book on hybrid war by Alex Alvarova
The one where Cambridge Analytica presents its work to Russians
Chapter Eleven — Samples
The parties at oligarch Osipovich became famous quickly. Hollywood stars, football and baseball legends, moderators, models, mysterious billionaires, famous comedians, dancers, Grammy winners, everything you can think of. Experienced impresarios of the entertainment industry estimated that one such party with all the fees for expensively-paid stars could cost up to a hundred million dollars, and they kept the guess to the ground. No one offered what Osipovich did. Whoever wasn’t in London at Osipovic’s party did not exist at all.
Miguel did not return until the morning, counting that he and Thomas Calendino had finished off three bottles of champagne and probably a canister of vodka. He vaguely remembered that just before he left, a little-dressed Hollywood star was rubbing against him, rumoured to be bisexual. It didn’t seem right to Miguel at the time. She expressed openly and in detail what she expected from him and what he could expect from her. Miguel, however, could barely stay on his feet and preferred a taxi to social humiliation.
He would definitely call her again, he told himself. He’ll definitely call this one.
He woke up afternoon. Although he had a hangover like an old sailor, he felt like a winner. He remembered the whole incident, and the fact that he was so explicitly sexually harassed by a well-known actress filled him with an incredible sense of self-satisfaction. He still had his first meeting at five, so what.
He and Thomas met at the club. They looked at each other and they both laughed. Thomas had a very similar experience with a fifteen-year-old Russian model, with which he did not hesitate to confide.
Waiting for Amin Parviz. His plane from Iceland was half an hour late, leaving time for amused reminiscences of the previous night.
“Gentlemen, excuse my delay,” said Parviz, and continued, “I read carefully the reports and the records of the daily progress of our campaigns. The company is doing great! I am satisfied. I wanted to congratulate you all. By the way there’s something I want to introduce you to. “
He presented untitled binders with several papers inside. He had one copy for each. “It is brief information about our next partner or client. I’ve already pre-negotiated it. Their people will arrive in Texas next week for a presentation. Scott Brennan will be there. We should do our best to get their attention . They might be useful to us. “
Miguel opened the binders and stared in disbelief for a moment. Thomas jumped up from the table and said, “What’s that supposed to be? Oh no no… Over my dead body!”
Parviz smiled. “It’s not a joke, colleague. Someone could take you seriously. “
Thomas Calendino stood for a moment, stared, then sat down again. But his shock was obvious.
Miguel was no better. “It’s like we’re going to present them? Do it for them? Can they buy our services? ”
“I am the majority owner and I tell you straight away: yes, they can. I’m not going to discuss that. “
The waiter brought three glasses of water, but only Parviz drank. Then he added: “We will come together to the meeting tomorrow and discuss the details. I think this could be a fruitful cooperation. And then, the company needs finances and recommendations, right? We’re not going to play any oldies in business, are we? ”
Both men stared at the first page of the document. The name of the Russian state company Eximp Oil shone there. Below it was written in small print: a presentation for Akmar Abdulov and his team.
Chapter Eighteen— Samples
The offices, which were half-rented by the British ECS Communications and the American Challenger Analytics in London, have been busy since the morning. The day before the presentation, Timothy did not sleep at all and worked on the data sets William Sax had given him. He wanted really nice charts. In the afternoon, everyone was given time off, only the management of both companies and two chief analysts, Davit Goradze and Timothy Anderson were allowed to stay.
After the noon break, the offices were orphaned, and dozens of papers and flash drives disappeared from their desks. The silence was all the more striking because, due to a lack of human noise, normally inaudible ventilation began to sound. The monotonous drone, no one had ever noticed before, created a kind of subliminal tension as a dramatic backdrop to a lit projector and a thermos of coffee.
At three o’clock, a small but solid man appeared in the doorway with a graying, short cut. Akmar Abdulov.
Despite the fact that his assets were estimated by Western analysts at up to nine billion dollars, he did not show by his behavior or clothing that it would mean anything to him. A well-cut navy blue suit could easily have been bought at H&M, and the mark of the watch on his hand was quite ordinary. He looked around the room quickly and smiled calmly. Amin Parviz sat his guest next to him and motioned for young men from the Russian delegation to sit around the other tables in the presentation room.
Miguel sat aside, his body firmly buried in a chair, in a shady part of the room where a streak of light did not fall. He had a breakdown. He left everything to William Sax, who obviously had no problem presenting Russia. He had rehearsed one standard presentation speech with a projection, only supplemented it with data that interested the Russians. These were the British and American electoral regions.
Timothy wondered what the oil company might need for opinion data from US and British areas outside major cities, but he was so busy preparing technical presentation samples that he quickly dismissed the idea. After all, Abdulov made a good, credible impression. He was modest and asked intelligent questions that one would not expect from a man in his position.
The young Russians who had come with him carefully recorded the entire presentation and took notes so hard that they could barely look up at their British colleagues.
William was on a roll.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, I will perform a little trick. I mean, it’s not a trick, it just looks like I’m a mage. But I’m not. This is all our data. “
He pointed his cursor to the center of the screen and theatrically pointed at the audience:
“You, sir! Say any name in South Texas. ”
Someone from the young Russian team suggested, “Maggie Carpenter.”
“Okay, so we have a name and we’re going to look. Yes, we see that the system found twenty-five Maggies Carpenters in four electoral districts. Which one do we want? ”
A list popped up on the screen, including age and address.
“Like this forty-year-old,” one of the Russians said, and William obediently clicked on a link to a 40-year-old Maggie Carpenter from Austin.
Everything was there. Age, residence, income, number and names of children, photos, photos of friends whom she voted for in the last election, favourite movies and series, psychological data, health problems, frequently bought tickets. The Russians present stopped writing and stared in amazement at the screen.
William smiled smugly. This reaction occurred during each presentation.
„So here we have Maggie from Austin, an outstanding home mortgage, two kids at a nearby home, 120 friends on Facebook, a neurotic type, driven by fears for the future of children, she voted for Obama in the last election, hmmm, pretty unusual in this precinct, she likes to swim and drive a Dodge Journey. Her favorite movie is Dirty Dance and she suffers from asthma.“
It was quiet.
“What databases does the data come from?” one of the Russians asked.
“It’s our secret sauce. We do not disclose. But I can tell you confidentially that most of the self-proclaimed people on Facebook alone, we just catch the chirping. “
“Is there a woman at all?” Another Russian man asked in excellent Oxford English.
William seemed to be waiting for this question. He snapped his thumb, and Timothy’s fingers were already running across the keyboard searching for addresses and phone numbers. He had her in a moment.
William brushed back the back of his jacket so as not to wrinkle as he sat effectively sitting on the corner of the table next to him. He pulled out his cell phone and dialled the number. There was a crack as Timothy connected his speakerphone. A voice in the receiver said cautiously, “Hello?”
William set an amused family tone. “Maggie? This is William. William Sax. We are conducting a consumer survey in your city. I’d like to ask you three questions, may I? “
The hall fell silent so that a pin could be dropped. What if she refuses?
”But yeah, the kids are in school and the husband isn’t home today, so ask… “
There were whispers and sounds of astonishment in the audience.
“Do you still live in the same place in Suncrest Hill? And you still drive a Dodge? ”
“Sure, we love it here. And we’re selling our Journey this year, aren’t you interested? No, I’m just kidding. What do you have next? ”
“You’re a treasure, Maggie, I really appreciate your willingness. I would be interested in your favorite movie. “
“Oh! Dirty Dancing for twenty years. I always have fun with it, you know? ”
“Do you want to tell a secret? Me too. And the final dance? Would you believe I tried it in the kitchen at home? ”
“Tell me about it, Will. You speak like an Englishman. Did you guys love it too?”
“Oh God! All my classmates fell for it. Patrick was magical, what do you say? ”
“Awww! He was such a sweetheart. I’m so sorry for him. “
“And one last question, Maggie, can I be more personal? Who did you vote for in the last presidential election? ”
“Obama, but if you tell my neighbors, I swear I’ll kill you, you got it?”
William said goodbye and thanked her. The stunned silence was not broken by a single tap of the keyboard.
William Sax has enjoyed this stunning silence several times this year. Then came only the final part, his grand finale:
“We know from this lady’s psychological profile that she falls into two categories, which we are particularly observing. The so-called persuadables. So impressionable. A neurotic; its main trigger in the decision-making process is fear for children. By the way, just on the sidelines — our genius Timothy discovered completely unexpected links between people’s behavior on Facebook and their voting or shopping preferences. We can’t explain them, but who cares? Happy that it works.
Imagine, for example, that ninety percent of women who like Dirty Dancing chose Obama. In Europe, for example, we have found that people who like the Hello Kitty brand hate Israel. Don’t ask me why. No one knows. But it is certain that this Big data magic really works. This is how the algorithm throws it out.
William looked around to see the effect of this passage. Amazement as usual.
“So back to Maggie. Whatever you want from this lady in the future, from the purchase of fuel to the election decision, you will always process it with fear first. Fear is what controls it. Don’t we want her to buy gasoline from competitors? She should learn that it is us who think about the safety of her children.
Maybe we can pay the foundation to save children’s lives in traffic accidents. Maybe it would be worthwhile to indicate what her children are threatened by competitors. Her children. Fear. The repeated impact of the image goes straight to the heart. Let’s say it with a picture, a photo. Fear and protection. Safety. There must be more of these messages, and it must be pouring in from everywhere. But thanks to microtargeting, you only pay a fraction of a penny for this single message, tailored to her. To her fears. Only she will see. And all women in a similar group.
And we can clone a million of those videos, pictures and information especially for her and similar mothers. You can play with her decisions as you wish. She’s all yours. Thanks to micro-targeting, you can influence one specific vote of twenty specific businessmen in one stock company or a million voters in one state. As anyone wants. This is behavioural math… And only we, Challenger Analytics, can do that. ”
Akmar Abdulov was the first to applaud. Slowly and emphatically. His team joined gradually and with some inner embarrassment. But when they saw that the boss was excited, they added applause.
The Russian billionaire said a single word out loud.
The British did not know if they should be honored.