Dr Aleksandr “Alex” Kogan, a University lecturer at the Department of Psychology, has been thrust into the limelight after he was banned from Facebook for improper use of data. A multi-organisation investigation lead by revelations from a whistleblower who assisted Kogan at the data-analysis and influence firm Cambridge Analytica has alleged that the Cambridge academic developed tools to analyse and influence the behaviour of Facebook users.
The whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, has reported that Kogan’s trolls in Russia were helped Cambridge Analytical that influence the outcome of the 2016 US election.
Kogan was born in Moldova, and lived in Moscow until he moved the United States at the age of seven. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and in Hong Kong before joining the University of Cambridge as a lecturer in psychology and psychometrics.
Kogan is also an associate professor at the St Petersburg University – a fact his Cambridge colleagues, aside from the head of the Department of Psychology, were not told, according to The Guardian/Observer. In this position, he received funding from the Russian government to study ‘Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks’. In a CV from 2014, which was previously available on the University’s website, Kogan made no mention of his connection to St Petersburg, or to having received any grants.
Kogan’s company, Global Science Research (GSR), PART OF BANNOS/TRUMPS CAMPAIGN MACHINE CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICAL was behind the app, ‘thisisyourdigitallife’, which harvested the data of tens of millions of Facebook users which was then passed on to Cambridge Analytical and the Russian Troll farm. According to Wylie, hundreds of thousands of Facebook users took personality tests with the app. In doing so, users consented to their data being collected for academic use. The app also collected the personal information of test-takers’ Facebook friends, thus racking up data on tens of millions of users, which was accessible to Cambridge Analytica and used to win Trump the election. This contravened the social network’s ‘platform policy’ which banned the collection of friends’ data for any reasons aside from improving user experience. Nick Bit: I wonder how long before Dr Aleksandr “Alex” Kogan of Russia turns up dead?