By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazilian prosecutors are investigating if UK firm Cambridge Analytica used data to create profiles from millions of Brazilians which would predict political behavior and help its Brazilian partner company determine the outcome of the country’s October presidential elections.
According to Frederico Meinberg, coordinator of the Commission for the Protection of Personal Data, the allegations, if true, are extremely worrisome, especially in an election year.
“The consumer has the right to know how his/her personal data will be used during the elections. The (country’s) political reform has allowed for a boost of content in social media, so elections can be defined based on money and behavioral profiles of users, analyzed by companies such as Cambridge Analytica,” said Meinberg in a document issued on Tuesday requesting a formal inquiry into both Cambridge Analytica and its Brazilian partner Ponte Estrategia.
“With these profiles, the candidates will direct the ads in the search for votes,” argued the prosecutor.
A recording conducted by an undercover reporter doing an investigation into Cambridge Analytical went viral on Monday. At the end of the video, an executive is heard saying that they ‘were going now to Brazil’.
According to the document, Cambridge Analytica has been operating in Brazil since 2017 in partnership Ponte Estratégia Planejamento e Pesquisa Ltda., which even renamed its company to CA-Ponte.
According to a news report by Bloomberg CA-Ponte’s owner, Andre Torretta is asking for the suspension of the partnership agreement UK company did not respond to his inquiries about possible illegal data harvesting from Brazilian Facebook users.
“Were it some other circumstance, they would have called, given me an explanation,” Torretta told Bloomberg. “Their lack of response is not pleasing.”
Mark Zuckerberg defended his company, stating there was a ‘major breach of trust’ between his company, Facebook, and Cambridge Analytica and added that his company has ‘a responsibility’ to stop fake news which could affect elections from appearing on his customers’ feeds.
“There’s a big election in Brazil, there are big elections around the world, and you can bet that we are really committed to doing everything that we need to make sure that the integrity of those elections on Facebook is secured,” Zuckerberg said in a CNN interview on Wednesday night.
For Brazilians like 32-year-old Renata Guimarães the possibility of someone using her personal data to give her biased or directed content is scary. “I used to put everything on Facebook, but nowadays I’m a more private person. It’s creepy to think that someone knows so much about you just through what you like and what you post” she told The Rio Times, all the while maintaining an eye on her cellphone and her social media.