An intern at the data mining and analysis firm Cambridge Analytica left online for nearly a year what appears to be programming instructions for the voter targeting tools the company used around the time of the election, raising questions about who could have accessed the tools and to what end. Social media analyst and data scientist Jonathan Albright discovered the election data processing scripts — or programming instructions — on what he said was the intern’s personal GitHub account. GitHub, a “Facebook for programmers,” is an internet hosting service mostly used for code. The account was scrubbed less than an hour after Albright published his findings on Medium, but the scripts had already been archived.
Cambridge Analytica, which mined and analyzed voter data for the Trump campaign last year, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A LinkedIn account that appears to belong to the intern identified by Albright lists him as a “Data Science Intern” for Cambridge Analytica between March and June of 2016.
The tools the intern appears to have extracted facilitated geolocation targeting, to be used in enriching voter files with GPS coordinates, and Twitter sentiment analysis — essentially, the process of determining someone’s position on an issue by analyzing tweets and pulling data from users discussing certain topics.