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Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this article. Jerusalem Post Middle East.

How Cambridge spy Guy Burgess charmed the Observer’s man in Moscow | World news | The Guardian

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Subscribe for our daily newsletter. During the time the myPersonalitydata was accessible, about researchers used it to publish more than academic papers. Some of the results were intuitive: Other findings were more perplexing: If an algorithm was fed with sufficient data about Facebook Likes, Kosinski and his colleagues found , it could make more accurate personality-based predictions than assessments made by real-life friends.

How Cambridge spy Guy Burgess charmed the Observer’s man in Moscow

In , SCL tried to enlist Stillwell and Kosinski, offering to buy the myPersonality data and their predictive models. Using his own Facebook personality quiz, and paying users with SCL money to take the tests, Kogan collected data on , Americans. Exploiting a loophole that allowed developers to harvest data belonging to the friends of Facebook app users without their knowledge or consent , Kogan was able to hoover up additional data on as many as 87 million people.

I only showed that it exists. Cambridge Analytica always denied using Facebook-based psychographic targeting during the Trump campaign, but the scandal over its data harvesting forced the company to close. The first time I enter his office, I ask him about a painting beside his computer, depicting a protester armed with a Facebook logo in a holster instead of a gun.

Facebook, Kosinski says, was well aware of his research.

Iran spy chief questioned after letting gay US politician into country

In , the same employees filed a patent, showing how personality characteristics could be gleaned from Facebook messages and status updates. Kosinski seems unperturbed by the furore over Cambridge Analytica, which he feels has unfairly maligned psychometric micro-targeting in politics. Where Lombroso used calipers and craniographs, Kosinski has been using neural networks to find patterns in photos scraped from the internet.

There is growing evidence, he insists, that links between faces and psychology exist, even if they are invisible to the human eye; now, with advances in machine learning, such links can be perceived. In a paper published last year , Kosinski and a Stanford computer scientist, Yilun Wang, reported that a machine-learning system was able to distinguish between photos of gay and straight people with a high degree of accuracy.

Kosinski received a deluge of emails, many from people who told him they were confused about their sexuality and hoped he would run their photo through his algorithm. There was also anger that Kosinski had conducted research on a technology that could be used to persecute gay people in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is punishable by death.


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Kosinski says his critics missed the point. But then a colleague asked me if I would be able to look myself in the mirror if, one day, a company or a government deployed a similar technique to hurt people.

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One vocal critic of that defence is the Princeton professor Alexander Todorov , who has conducted some of the most widely cited research into faces and psychology. Self-posted photos on dating websites, Todorov points out, project a number of non-facial clues.


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  8. Kosinski acknowledges that his machine learning system detects unrelated signals, but is adamant the software also distinguishes between facial structures. His findings are consistent with the prenatal hormone theory of sexual orientation, he says, which argues that the levels of androgens foetuses are exposed to in the womb help determine whether people are straight or gay.

    The opposite should be true for lesbians. While he does not deny the influence of social and environmental factors on our personalities, he plays them down. The man is half dotty, not actively vicious. The whole situation is the sort of personal tragedy that can only be ended by death.

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    Crankshaw would publish a series of long articles on the Soviet Union over the next three months, says Purvis, but never mentioned meeting Burgess. Guy Burgess died of acute liver failure, on 30 August , aged Crankshaw retired to write history books, and died at home in Kent in November He wrote much about Russia, before and after the revolution, but he never returned to the subject of the Cambridge spies.

    Topics Espionage The Observer. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. Loading comments… Trouble loading? UK security service went back and forth for decades over whether the communist Paddy Costello was a Soviet agent. Historian EP Thompson denounced Communist party chiefs, files show.