Mindf*ck is the story of Cambridge Analytica as told by Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who helped to break the story of what happened when data was used to manipulate people with targeted Facebook pages in the name of election and referendum campaigns. The scandal around Cambridge Analytica is something most people are aware of at some level, but the book details the sheer worldwide scale of the work the company was involved in and the key players involved in getting and using people’s data. It starts with how Wylie ended up involved in working with data for political ends, and concludes with the realities of being a whistleblower and his manifesto for better tech companies and use of data.
There are a lot of books about technology and politics around at the moment—unsurprisingly—but this one stands out as being direct from someone deeply involved in it, covering a lot of content without delving too far into technological points or jargon, and also being a kind of memoir of how someone who is more of an outsider could be helping Steve Bannon reach the minds of Americans. It is fascinating in its content, but also in how Wylie presents himself, and the people he knows and knew. Wylie’s concluding manifesto about ethical design and regulation for tech companies serves as a useful introduction to the more positive side of the current technological moment: the potential for doing better in the future and finding ways to break the current potential for things like the use of data by Cambridge Analytica.
For people already interested in books about tech companies, politics, and the future of the two, Mindf*ck gives a specific insight and a chance to think about how everything with Cambridge Analytica unfolded. For those who are newer to the topic, it is engaging and written in a style that doesn’t need tech knowledge, but only an interest in what Wylie might have to say, good or bad. The memoir aspects look at whistleblowing on a personal level and in general it is a fascinating, at times horrifying read.