By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Have you heard of a company called Cambridge Analytica? Well, chances are, they've not only heard about you, they know quite a bit about you. Until recent months, the company had been a little-known data analysis outfit based in London. But based on a number of reports, including a very informative recent piece in Motherboard, the group has been quietly but profoundly rewriting the book on mass persuasion. Supported by a somewhat secretive investment network, and appearing to work only on behalf of conservative causes, the group specializes in big data collection and micro-targeting of voters. Their exact methods and clients are not always subject to confirmation, but based on media reports, the company is believed to have worked for the successful "Brexit," campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, and definitely played a key role in Donald Trump's successful presidential campaign.
Of course, campaigns and other persuaders have always used whatever is available. But the existence of "big data" -- shorthand for systems to collect and apply information about all our transactions and communications -- is a unique change to the landscape. And it's only a matter of time before these new tools start to change the playing field for legal persuasion. There is already at least one company (Jury Mapping) that specializes in litigation uses of big data. While these early efforts might be, as I said in a past post, more of a shotgun than a scalpel, we can expect lawyers and consultants to explore those uses. In the wake of the recent election, however, I think that the role of big data and social media profiling carries some broad lessons for legal persuaders. In this post, I'll take a look at four observations that have parallels in legal persuasion.