The Great Hack

Jul 30, 2019

All you need to know about Cambridge Analytica's  psychographic manipulation and be entertained at the same time.

The Great Hack

Grade: A-

Directors: Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim (The Square)

Screenplay: Amer, Erin Barnett (The Memory of Fish), Pedro Kos (The Crash Reel)

Cast: Brittany Kaiser, David Carroll

Runtime: 1 hr 53 min

By: John DeSando

"If you run campaigns designed to undermine people’s ability to make free choices and to understand what is real and not real, you are undermining democracy and treating voters in the same way as you are treating terrorists." Christopher Wylie Cambridge Analytica whistleblower.

Don’t cancel your Facebook account just yet even though The Great Hack does a credible job exposing its abuse of privacy data for each of us. This carefully thought out and smoothly presented Netflix exposition of Cambridge Analytica’s effective data shenanigans during the 2016 presidential election and pre-Brexit initiative is informative and entertaining, just like a good doc should be. Harvesting information on more than 50 million Facebookers is impressive and scary.

The major player here is Brittany Kaiser, the former director of business development for Cambridge Analytica, a defunct political data outfit; she turns on the company after serious soul searching. Like many of us as well, playing with psycho data on millions of subscribers to direct them to either trump or Brexit seems beyond the pale of democratic social media that should be neutral at all times. As for Kaiser, well, she’s a hired gun who worked for Clinton before Cambridge—in her I don’t trust.

Although Kaiser could be held up to intense scrutiny for the Trump campaign and Brexit, her meeting with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and his subsequent disclosures about Hillary Clinton seem to damn her just as well. Yet, she is contrite here, seemingly trying to right the wrongs of the cyber terrorism Cambridge Analytica clearly fomented. Anyway, the intrigue is unusually ripe for a documentary.

Besides the narrative magnetism of Cambridge’s targeted messaging and psychographic manipulating is the caution for those of us who are lucky just to be able to write a word document—watch your identity ever so carefully. Current technology can know us and our personalities with thousands of reference points just for us, some of whom are the “persuadables” who can be directed to political and social ends. The Russians are coming.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at