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World
22 Mar 2018

Meet Christopher Wylie: The 28-year-old behind the Facebook data stir

About Christopher Wylie: The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica whistleblower

Call him what you may, a genius storyteller, a data harvester, a politicker, or a whistleblower, but at 28, Christopher Wylie knows enough to have influenced three key global events - Brexit, 2016 US presidential election and #DeleteFacebook movement - each changing, challenging the world as we know it.

Who is this gay Canadian, who helped create "Steve Bannon's psychological warfare mindfuck tool"?

In context

About Christopher Wylie: The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica whistleblower

Turbulent childhood

The internet kid who was bullied, had dyslexia, ADHD

He spent his formative years in British Columbia, Canada. At 6, he was abused by a mentally unfit person at school, which led to him successfully suing the British Columbia Ministry of Education, reported The Guardian.

As a teen, he was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, and eventually dropped out of school at 16 without any qualification.

Early career

An LSE alumnus, a self-taught coder

But when did a rocky start stop genius from flourishing? What Wylie missed out on in school, he found in politics.

At 17, he was working for Canada's opposition leader. At 18, learning all about data from Obama's national targeting director, he helped Canada's Liberal party.

At 19, he was coding. At 20, studying law at the London School of Economics.

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He is a British Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa-holder

According to The Guardian, Wylie's expertise as a political strategist combined with his high-level data research skills helped him get a British Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa - a work visa granted by the United Kingdom to just 200 people every year.

Cambridge Analytica

Wylie weaponized data for Steve Bannon to help Trump win

Though he was offered a job by Deloitte, he chose to "help set up" Cambridge Analytica, a data firm then steered by Donald Trump's key adviser Steve Bannon.

In 2014, as its research head, he harvested the personal information of over 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge to understand them better so as to psychologically manipulate their voting preferences through personalized political advertisements.

Looking back

Why did he do it?

Calling working with Cambridge Analytica a big mistake, he told Channel 4 News that he "had no clue that he was walking into the middle of a nexus of defense and intelligence projects, private contractors and cutting-edge cyberweaponry."

"I just think if I'd taken literally any other job, Cambridge Analytica wouldn't exist. You have no idea how much I brood on this," he added.

Why is Wylie outing Cambridge Analytica now?

Reasons

Why is Wylie outing Cambridge Analytica now?

Wylie was at the heart of Cambridge Analytica's gross violations four years ago. Why is he denouncing it now? To avenge his acrimonious legal fall-out that ensued after he left?

He says he regrets "playing with the psychology of an entire country without their consent or awareness" and feels responsible to tell people about Cambridge Analytica so that they can make more informed choices.

Lessons

'Go through life with a healthy dose of skepticism'

After hacking into the trust of millions of Americans and showing the world the dangerous perils of information sharing on social media, what does Wylie have to say?

"I think that healthy dose of skepticism as to what you're seeing and what you're hearing and who you're talking to is the best way to go through life," he told The Guardian.

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