It goes without saying that we are all living in an age of technological revolution, a process which even the most adept of us cannot really understand. This harsh truth is confirmed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim’s new Netflix documentary, The Great Hack, in which the scandal surrounding the infamous former British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, is dissected through the stories of three individuals who are, in different ways, connected with the organisation.
We have, firstly, the victim – David Caroll, associate professor at Parsons School for Design in New York, who requested his own data profile from Cambridge Analytica, and was denied its full disclosure. Secondly, we have Brittney Kaiser, a morally ambiguous former high-ranking employee of Cambridge Analytica, who may or may not have been in cahoots with former CEO of the company, Alexander Nix. Only appearing in archive footage, Nix is posited as some sort of Bond villain or, better still, an upper-crust traitor from a John Le Carré thriller. Finally, in this cat-and-mouse game, we have the whistle-blower, investigative journalist from The Guardian, Carole Cadwalladr, who has made us all aware of the connection between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, and in turn, Facebook’s perceptible influence in the outcome of the Brexit vote and the US election of President Donald Trump in 2017, amongst other events.
The documentary keeps us hooked from the beginning, showing us the tech companies’ insidious amassing of our online data over the course of the last decade and more, amid great advances in computer technology. Even the most seemingly banal activities, such as online personality tests set up as ‘just a bit of fun’ have apparently been fodder for these tech conglomerates. The recurrent images of the physical representation of our data swirling around in cyberspace like ingredients in some sort of thick soup concoction are chilling. The Great Hack is informative and insistent viewing, particularly for impressionable so-called ‘Millennials.’ The documentary is available to stream now.
For further viewing, there is an interesting documentary entitled Inside Job (2010), directed by Charles Ferguson, and narrated by Matt Damon, about the financial crisis of 2008, of which the financial district of Wall Street in New York was the epicentre. Much like The Great Hack, this film weaves itself like a thriller. However, so complex is the financial jargon in the film’s interviews it may leave ignoramuses, like myself, reaching for the bottle. I jest… This is equally important viewing, and is available on Amazon Video, as well as other home formats.