Observers have pointed out many reasons to be concerned about all this: The way that the data was collected from Facebook arguably did not allow for informed consent. The researcher who collected the data was not authorized to pass it on to Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica itself may have broken U.S. election laws, if British individuals without U.S. green cards worked on any U.S. election campaigns.
But here’s one thing you probably should not be concerned about: whether Cambridge Analytica successfully used this profile data to manipulate millions of Americans’ political behavior. When Cambridge Analytica took credit for Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, social scientists mostly responded with eye-rolling and references to “snake oil.”
Why did social scientists so quickly dismiss the manipulation claims? Here are four reasons Cambridge Analytica’s claim of psychological manipulation doesn’t pass the social scientist’s smell test.