The political class until also a few days ago actively supporting this naïve notion has gone to ground amid disclosures that a British market research outfit Cambridge Analytics was doing the retailing of all this data mining.
In the event, and this is now conveniently forgotten, attitudinal research had its beginnings in Cambridge with an organisation known as Mass Observation.
Its founder Charles Madge (pictured above in his later years) who died in 1996 saw a gap between what governments thought voters believed, and what they believed in fact.
Something familiar here?
Mass Observation’s quizzing of a cross section of individuals determined domestic policies of Britain’s wartime coalition government.
Mass Observation’s technique overcame the underpinning problem of conventional sampling techniques in which respondents give the response they think they are expected to give instead of revealing what they are really thinking.
Facebook then came along and solved this problem on a global scale.
It substantially duped the political class and now became a weathervane to the direction of political drifts.
.Such was the crusading aura of goodness surrounding Facebook that political buffs who had once taken to the streets protesting about the privacy incursions of health and law enforcement computing and CCTV now had no hesitation about letting fly on it with their deepest convictions.
For example it left no doubt as to the correctness of replacing former Labour Party leader Andrew Little with election winning Jacinda Ardern as a cross-section of adherents flashed off their Go Jacinda postings..
Those duped, mostly themselves in the information business in one form or another, now seek to spread their cupidity in the techno-chatter centred on things like algorithms, data modelling, analytics, apps, big data, Boolean algebra.
In the event though what happened was simply the accelerated automation of the original Cambridge Mass Observation methodology introduced by Charles Madge and a handful of other university members who saw the relationship between sociology and mathematics.
Before the softer title Mass Observation was selected the scheme was known as Mass Science.
Facebook’s marketing was always focussed on hiding its dark underside inherent in its revenue gathering.
Its singular genius was always was to align its intentions with those of its influential adherents in the political class who now joined in the common chorus which relied heavily on words such as empowerment, participation, and of course democracy.
To be fair, they could not have imagined the seedy and even ennobled collection of British toffs that comprise Cambridge Analytics and its even sleazier holding company.
Quite a distance from Charles Madge who insisted on describing himself as a poet.
The political class composed as it is by activists can be seen now as having supplied most of the grist to the mill of this stupendous harvest just because they are the sector most explicit in its preferences.
In being so definite, didactic about their likes and dislikes it is they who will have supplied the bulk of the applied campaign data to outfits such as Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook’s fortunes will increase with these revelations about its central role in the information society. emphasising as they do its role as the pivotal hub of it..
Facebook reaction has gone through the standard procedure of disbelief, recognition, acceptance, and declarations of future improved citizenship.
Similarly the activists who have for quite some time acted as volunteer political preference researchers will resume posting their likes and dislikes.
For them information is power. For the Facebook shareholders it is money.