The new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has appointed Dominic Cummings, former Vote Leave campaign director, as a senior advisor in the same week that Netflix is promoting its documentary "The Great Hack" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX8GxLP1FHo which delves into the activities of Cambridge Analytica - whose data-gathering and targetted advertising via Facebook is claimed to have influenced voters in the Brexit referendum and the election of US president Trump.
The day after Cummings was appointed, UK-based Facebook users were, "besieged by incredibly specific and targetted ads for the Conservative Party," notes Jo O'Reilly, data privacy advocate at ProPrivacy.com.
In an email to SC Media UK, O'Reilly draws out the comparison with Cambridge Analytica, explaining: "Each ad features minute variations, ranging from colour schemes, wording, imagery and more. They are then able to test which messages work best with different kinds of voters, by monitoring interaction with the posts, building demographic heatmaps of what key audiences look like and crucially, collecting data that can be used should a general election be called.
"The ads link to a survey entitled ‘These are my priorities. What are yours?’ giving potential voters the chance to express their priorities to the UK government, alongside a full name, email address, and postcode. All useful tools in helping build up a database of people's priorities, or in other words, their hopes, fears, values and opinions. Valuable data-points to pinpoint ads to sway voters and further proof that hyper-targeted political advertising hasn't died alongside Cambridge Analytica."
Cambridge Analytica denies working with Vote Leave.
In a separate SC Media report Mozilla claimed that a Facebook API tool designed to examine campaign ads is not working as advertised, as it did not disseminate targetting information, the data was not tagged properly and identical searches would produce very different results each time they were run.