NBC reported today that SCL Group Ltd, a private British behavioral research company, had removed U.S. State Dept. and NATO logos from their website after NBC started asking questions as to why the company was claiming that its “methodology” had been approved by the State Dept. and NATO. A State Dept. spokesperson confirmed that it had not authorized SCL to use its logo and had not cleared the language it was using on its website with the State Dept.
The backstory on this is extremely troubling and raises serious privacy concerns for all Americans. SCL Group — which has a U.S. subsidiary called Cambridge Analytica that helped elect Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election – were granted two contracts with the State Dept. in February and March of 2017 for the ostensible purpose of helping the government’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) effect behavioral changes amongst potential ISIS terrorist recruits. The contracts were awarded by the State Dept. without any competitive bidding, allegedly due to “national security” concerns.
These two contracts are only the tip of the iceberg. SCL is also actively using its many contacts within the Trump Administration to snag other government contracts with the Dept. of Defense, the Commerce Department, Homeland Security, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other agencies that may be interested in using — or ordered by the White House to use – SCL’s psychological profiling and data manipulation techniques.
As part of its sales “pitch,” SCL holds itself out as having access to thousands of “data points” on every American man, woman and child, as well as a massive database on foreign nationals. SCL explains to potential clients that it can use these data points to formulate a “psychographic” profile of every American and many non-Americans, and that it can use these profiles to craft individually-designed “messages,” to influence (i.e. manipulate) those persons into acting (or voting) in the desired manner.
Although the two State Dept. contracts are supposed to be limited to “counter-radicalization” campaigns, there is a serious danger that these psychological manipulation — basically “brainwashing” – techniques are intended for use both within the U.S. as well as abroad, and that SCL and its affiliated U.S.-based company will be basically given free access to all of the government’s huge databases on virtually every citizen and resident in the U.S.
No doubt the sophisticated and powerful psychological manipulation techniques available to SCL may be used for various desirable goals, such as the persuasion of young people in the U.S. as well as in other countries who might be susceptible to radicalization that they should not go down that dark path and, instead, concentrate on their education and other peaceful and productive pursuits. However, such psychological persuasion tools can also – and have been – used in political campaigns to target vulnerable audiences through Facebook and other social media campaigns that are individually tailored to potential voters based upon database information regarding their psychological and emotional preferences and vulnerabilities. In other words, data analytic companies such as SCL and Cambridge Analytica can know as much, or even more, about a voter’s preferences than even the voter themselves understands, at least consciously. These companies know how to effectively attack and exploit the subconscious world of potential voters or any other target market, and their potential for influencing people’s though processes and actions – for either good or evil – cannot be over-estimated.
While in the past the U.S. government’s propaganda outlets – such as the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and others – were restricted by law to only operate outside the U.S., such restrictions were recently lifted by Congress, making it potentially possible for U.S. government sponsored news and information outlets to be available within the U.S. The loosening of these restrictions raises the possibility that companies such as SCL, which spearheaded a successful voter campaign within the UK in favor of Brexit, which now requires that country to leave the European Union, can now apply its formidable powers within the U.S. to carry out a massive campaign within the U.S. on behalf of the Trump Administration to manipulate social media platforms and cyberspace to influence public thinking on issues important to the Administration. In addition, such a potential information (or disinformation) campaign may be financed with taxpayer money, since SCL is concentrating its effort exclusively on obtaining government contracts.
British authorities have launched an investigation as to whether SCL violated British and EU privacy laws in their rush to use personal psychological data to influence voters as part of the Brexit campaign. The U.S. may soon find itself in a similar situation if the Trump Administration continues to hand out lucrative data analytics contracts to SCL here in the U.S. Otherwise, Big Brother may be just around the corner.
 See website for USASpending.gov.