Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica Ltd (CA) was a British political consulting firm which combined data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication during the electoral processes.[5][6] It was started in 2013 as an offshoot of the SCL Group.[7] The company closed operations in 2018 in the course of the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, although related firms still exist.[8]

The company was partly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, an American hedge-fund manager who supports many politically conservative causes.[7][9] The firm maintained offices in London, New York City, and Washington, DC.[10] CEO Alexander Nix has said CA was involved in 44 US political races in 2014.[11] In 2015, CA performed data analysis services for Ted Cruz's presidential campaign.[9] In 2016, CA worked for Donald Trump's presidential campaign[12] as well as for Leave.EU (one of the organisations campaigning in the United Kingdom's referendum on European Union membership). CA's role in those campaigns has been controversial and is the subject of ongoing criminal investigations in both countries.[13][14][15] Political scientists question CA's claims about the effectiveness of its methods of targeting voters.[16][17]

In March 2018, multiple media outlets broke news of Cambridge Analytica's business practices. The New York Times and The Observer reported that the company had acquired and used personal data about Facebook users from an external researcher who had told Facebook he was collecting it for academic purposes. Shortly afterwards, Channel 4 News aired undercover investigative videos showing Nix boasting about using prostitutes, bribery sting operations, and honey traps to discredit politicians on whom it conducted opposition research, and saying that the company "ran all of (Donald Trump's) digital campaign". In response to the media reports, the Information Commissioner of the UK pursued a warrant to search the company's servers.[18][19] Facebook banned Cambridge Analytica from advertising on its platform, saying that it had been deceived.[20][21] On 23 March 2018, the British High Court granted the Information Commissioner's Office a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica's London offices.[22]

The personal data of approximately 87 million[23] Facebook users were acquired via the 270,000 Facebook users who used a Facebook app called "This Is Your Digital Life."[24] By giving this third-party app permission to acquire their data, back in 2015, this also gave the app access to information on the user's friends network; this resulted in the data of about 87 million users, the majority of whom had not explicitly given Cambridge Analytica permission to access their data, being collected. The app developer breached Facebook's terms of service by giving the data to Cambridge Analytica.[25]

On 1 May 2018, Cambridge Analytica and its parent company filed for insolvency proceedings and closed operations.[26][27] Alexander Taylor, a former director for Cambridge Analytica, was appointed director of Emerdata on 28 March 2018.[28]

Cambridge Analytica Ltd
Defunct1 May 2018
HeadquartersLondon, England
Key people
Alexander Nix (CEO)[1]
Robert Mercer (investor)[2]
Rebekah Mercer (investor)
Steve Bannon (vice president, former)[3]
ParentSCL Group[4]


Cambridge Analytica (SCL USA) was incorporated in January 2015 with its registered office in Westferry Circus, London and just one staff member, its director and CEO Alexander James Ashburner Nix (also appointed in January 2015).[29] Nix is also the director of nine similar companies sharing the same registered offices in London, including Firecrest technologies, Emerdata and six SCL Group companies including "SCL elections limited".[30] Nigel Oakes founded SCL Group, which is the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.[31]

Web Summit 2017 - Centre Stage Day 3 SAM 7454 (24415941378)
Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix speaking in November 2017.

Publicly, SCL Group called itself a "global election management agency",[32] Politico reported it was known for involvement "in military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting".[9] SCL's involvement in the political world has been primarily in the developing world where it has been used by the military and politicians to study and manipulate public opinion and political will. Slate writer Sharon Weinberger compared one of SCL's hypothetical test scenarios to fomenting a coup.[9]

Cambridge Analytica was founded by conservative businessmen Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer. A minimum of 15 million dollars has been invested into the company by Mercer, according to The New York Times.[33] Bannon's stake in the company was estimated at 1 to 5 million dollars, but he divested his holdings in April 2017 as required by his role as White House Chief Strategist.[34] In March 2018, Jennifer Mercer and Rebekah Anne Mercer became directors of Emerdata limited.[35] In March 2018 it became public by Whistleblower Christopher Wylie, that Cambridge Analytica's first activities were founded on a data set, which its parent company SCL bought 2014 from a company named Global Science Research founded by Aleksandr Kogan[36] who worked as an psychologist at Cambridge.

Per the Associated Press, Data Propria, a data analysis firm launched May 2018, is run by former officials at Cambridge Analytica.[37][38][39]

In July 2018, several former Cambridge Analytica staff launched Auspex International, a company intended to influence politics and society in Africa and the Middle East.[40][41][42][43][44][45]


CA's data analysis methods were to a large degree based on the academic work of Michal Kosinski. In 2008, Kosinski had joined the Psychometrics Centre of Cambridge University where he then developed with his colleagues a profiling system using general online data, Facebook-likes, and smartphone data.[46][47] He showed that with a limited number of "likes", people can be analysed better than friends or relatives can do and that individual psychological targeting is a powerful tool to influence people.[46]

CA would collect data on voters using sources such as demographics, consumer behaviour, internet activity, and other public and private sources. According to The Guardian, CA used psychological data derived from millions of Facebook users, largely without users' permission or knowledge.[48] Another source of information was the "Cruz Crew" mobile app that tracked physical movements and contacts and according to the Associated Press, invaded personal data more than previous presidential campaign apps.[49]

Today in the United States we have somewhere close to four or five thousand data points on every individual ... So we model the personality of every adult across the United States, some 230 million people.

— Alexander Nix, chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, October 2016.[1]

The company claimed to use "data enhancement and audience segmentation techniques" providing "psychographic analysis" for a "deeper knowledge of the target audience". The company uses the Big Five model of personality [11][10] Using what it calls "behavioral microtargeting" the company indicates that it can predict "needs" of subjects and how these needs may change over time. Services then can be individually targeted for the benefit of its clients from the political arena, governments, and companies providing "a better and more actionable view of their key audiences." According to Sasha Issenberg, CA indicates that it can tell things about an individual he might not even know about himself.[7][50]

CA derived much of its personality data on online surveys which it conducts on an ongoing basis. For each political client, the firm would narrow voter segments from 32 different personality styles it attributes to every adult in the United States. The personality data would inform the tone of the language used in ad messages or voter contact scripts, while additional data is used to determine voters' stances on particular issues.[51]

The data would get updated with monthly surveys, asking about political preferences and how people get the information they use to make decisions. It also covered consumer topics about different brands and preferred products, building up an image of how someone shops as much as how they vote.[52]

Channel 4 News investigation

Channel 4 News, a news programme broadcast by the British public service Channel 4, conducted a four-month investigation into Cambridge Analytica starting in November 2017. An undercover reporter posed as a potential customer for Cambridge Analytica, hoping to help Sri Lankan candidates get elected. Video footage from this operation was published on 19 March 2018.[53] From the footage, Cambridge Analytica executives say they worked on over 200 elections across the world.[54] Alexander Nix was recorded in this investigation, talking "unguardedly about the company's practices".[55] Nix said that his company uses honey traps, bribery stings, and prostitutes, for opposition research.[56] For example, Nix offered to discredit political opponents in Sri Lanka with suggestive videos using "beautiful Ukrainian girls" and offers of bribes, even if the opponents did not accept the offers.[57] Cambridge Analytica said that the video footage was "edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent" the recorded conversations and company's business practices. Nix said that he had "entertained a series of ludicrous hypothetical scenarios", but insisted his company does not engage in entrapment or bribery.[58]

In the third part of the series, Nix also said that Cambridge Analytica "ran all the digital campaign" for Trump. Nix stated they used communications that would be self-destructive, leaving no incriminating evidence. After the news segment was broadcast, the board of Cambridge Analytica suspended Nix as chief executive officer. The company also released a statement that the allegations did not represent the ethics of the company, and an independent entity would investigate Nix's statements.[59]

The investigation also raised questions regarding campaign finance law. During the 2016 election, the company was employed both by Trump's campaign and Robert Mercer's Make America Number 1 Super PAC which supported Trump. While PACs are not limited in the amount of funds they can spend on behalf of a candidate, they are not allowed to coordinate strategy with the campaigns they are supporting. Nix's statements in the recorded video describe how the Trump campaign itself could "take the high road" and "stay clean", while the negative attacks were handled by the firm and the Super PAC, in a way which makes it "unattributable, untrackable". These statements potentially suggested unlawful coordination between Trump's campaign and the PAC, although Cambridge Analytica has denied this.[60]

Assessment of impact

Cambridge Analytica protest Parliament Square4
Canadian whistleblower Christopher Wylie who was the former director of research at Cambridge Analytica

Political scientists have been highly skeptical of claims made by Cambridge Analytica about the effectiveness of its microtargeting of voters (microtargeting refers to the process of "analyzing data to predict the behavior, interests, and opinions held by specific groups of people and then serving them the messages they're most likely to respond to").[61][16][17] Political scientists note that access to digital data is not going to provide significantly more information than from public voter databases, and the digital data has limited value over time as the preferences of voters change.[16] Political scientists also note that it is hard to infer political values from personality traits, which means that it is easy to mistarget the messages that are sent to voters with specific personality traits.[16] Research discussed by Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College showed that it is extremely hard to alter voters' preferences because many likely voters are already committed partisans; as a result, it is easier to simply mobilize partisan voters.[62][16] Tufts University political scientist Eitan Hersh, who has published on microtargeting in campaigns, has expressed strong skepticism about Cambridge Analytica's methods and their purported effectiveness, saying "Every claim about psychographics etc made by or about [Cambridge Analytica] is BS."[63]

In 2017, CA claimed that it has psychological profiles of 220 million US citizens based on 5,000 separate data sets.[64] In March 2017, The New York Times reported that CA had exaggerated its capabilities: "Cambridge executives now concede that the company never used psychographics in the Trump campaign."[13] Trump aides have also disputed CA's role in the campaign, describing it as "modest" and noting that none of the company's efforts involved psychographics.[13]

According to an aide and consultant for Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, their campaign stopped using CA after its psychographic models failed to identify likely Cruz supporters. The Cruz campaign ceased access to all of Cambridge's data after the South Carolina Republican primary on 20 February 2016 when Cruz came in third after Trump and Rubio.[13][65]

Privacy issues

The use of personal data collected without knowledge or permission to establish sophisticated models of user's personalities raises ethical and privacy issues.[48] CA operated out of the United States; its operations would be illegal in Europe with its stricter privacy laws.[49] While Cruz was outspoken about protecting personal information from the government, his database of CA has been described as "political-voter surveillance".[49]

Regarding CA's use of Facebook users, a speaker for CA indicated that these users gave permission when signing up with the provider, while Facebook declared that "misleading people or misusing information" is in violation of Facebook's policies.[48] In 2015, Facebook indicated that it was investigating the matter.[48] In March 2018, Facebook announced that it had suspended the accounts of Strategic Communication Laboratories for failing to delete data on Facebook users that had been improperly collected.[66]

Alexander Nix suggested that data collection and microtargeting benefits the voters – because they receive messages about issues they care about. However, digital rights protection groups raised concerns that private information is collected, stored, and shared while individuals are "left in the dark about [it]" and have no control.[67]

Significant backlash against Facebook came to light in March 2018, resulting in controversy as well as a $37 billion drop in the market capitalization of Facebook, as of 20 March.[68] Due to the scandal of enabling monetization of Facebook personal data, one assessment was that only 41% of Facebook users trust the company.[69] On 26 March, the US Federal Trade Commission announced it is "conducting an open investigation of Facebook Inc's privacy practices following the disclosure that 50 million users' data got into the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica."[70]



In India, Cambridge Analytica had been used by the two largest political parties, BJP and Congress (INC) to carry out "in-depth electorate analysis" and influence voters, including in the 2010 elections to the Bihar Legislative Assembly.[71][72][73] 355 Indian Facebook users installed a Cambridge Analytica app, exposing the data of 562,455 users.[74] In addition, Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, alleged that the company has offices and staff in India, and that the Indian National Congress party was a major client.[75] A BBC documentary clip showing a poster of the Indian National Congress in the office of former Cambridge Analytica expert Christopher Wylie went viral in India, sparking accusations that the company was manipulating both mainstream and social media in order to subvert Indian voters away from the Bharatiya Janata Party and towards the INC as part of a neocolonial effort to undermine Indian politics in favor of vested interests.[76] In early 2018 Cambridge Analytica made a 50-page proposal for the INC for both the upcoming 2019 general election in India and their upcoming electoral campaign for the Indian states of Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh state elections in 2018.[77]


CA ran campaigns in secret during Kenya's 2013 and 2017 elections.[78] In 2018, a CA employee said that his predecessor at the company had been found dead in his hotel room in Kenya while working on Uhuru Kenyatta's 2013 campaign.[79] The company claimed on its website to have conducted a survey of 47,000 Kenyans during the 2013 elections in order to understand "key national and local political issues, levels of trust in key politicians, voting behaviours/intentions, and preferred information channels". According to verified sources, CA worked with 360 Media a company formed by Simon Gicharu founder of Mount Kenya University and Tom Mshindi Editor in Chief of Nation Media Group. Gicharu's 360 developing online campaigns in the 2017 Kenyan elections portraying "Raila Odinga as a blood-thirsty individual who is also sympathetic to Al-Shabaab and having no development agenda," whilst portraying the incumbent President Kenyatta as "tough on terrorism, and being good for the economy."[80] After the revelations in March 2018, where CA staff boasted of their power in Kenya, opposition figures called for an investigation. Norman Magaya, an official of the National Super Alliance, accused CA and the ruling Jubilee Party of committing a crime and called for an investigation.[81] The ruling Jubilee Party downplayed CA's role, saying it had hired the firm's parent company, to assist with branding.[82]


In its Disinformation and 'fake news' inquiry, published on 29 July 2018, the UK Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee noted that it is believed that CA, or its associated companies, worked with the Labour Party in Malta, on the 2013 general election campaign.[83] Several sources claim, including assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, that CA had close relationships with Henley & Partners who would immediately after the election introduce and run a lucrative Citizenship by Investment Program in Malta.[84] [85][86] The Maltese Government issued a press release denying the claims and calling the report and its sources "fake news".[87] Henley & Partners denied any wrongdoing. According to Henley & Partners, there was never a formal working relationship with CA.[88]


After the Facebook scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, Forbes published that the British news program Channel 4 News had mentioned the existence of proof revealing ties between the PRI and Cambridge Analytica, suggesting a modus operandi similar to the one in the United States. According to Channel 4 News' Guillermo Galdos, CA worked for the PRI at least until January 2018.[89][90][91] An investigation was requested.[92]

In 2017 the company had reached out to PRI, Mexico's ruling political party, in order to bolster the party's presidential campaign during the largest-ever political elections of 2018. The party decided that it was sufficiently equipped to mess with the election on its own, but still paid Cambridge Analytica to prevent it from working with rival parties.[93]

United Kingdom

Cambridge Analytica protest Parliament Square1
A protest following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, 29 March 2018

Many donors to the UK Conservative Party reportedly have connections to the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.[94]

CA became involved in the 2016 Brexit referendum supporting "persuadable" voters to vote for leaving the European Union.[95] Articles by Carole Cadwalladr in The Observer and Guardian newspapers, respectively published in February and May 2017, speculated in detail that CA had influenced both the Brexit/Vote Leave option in the UK's 2016 EU membership referendum and Trump's 2016 US presidential campaign with Robert Mercer's backing of Donald Trump being key. They also discuss the legality of using the social data farmed.[96][97][98] CA is pursuing legal action over the claims made in Cadwalladr's articles.[96]

No campaign contributions, in cash or in kind, by Cambridge Analytica were reported to the UK electoral authorities. Both CA and refused to comment on any donation of services.[99] On 23 March 2018, it was reported that a former employee, Brittany Kaiser, who was the company's former director of business development, has revealed that the company misled the public and MPs over its links with Leave.EU and the analysis of data which had been provided by UKIP. She said she felt she had lied by supporting Cambridge Analytica's company line that it had done "no paid or unpaid work" for Leave.EU. "In my opinion, I was lying. In my opinion I felt like we should say, 'this is exactly what we did'".[100] The following day, it was reported that the company claimed that it would be able to affect the outcome of the Referendum and that it had produced a 10-page document headed "Big Data Solutions for the EU Referendum", claiming it could single out 'Brexiteers' among voters, donors, politicians and journalists.[101]

DW reported in March 2018 that "Whistleblower Christopher Wylie told UK lawmakers during a committee hearing on Tuesday that a firm linked to Cambridge Analytica helped the official Vote Leave campaign [the official pro-Brexit group headed by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove] circumvent campaign financing laws during the Brexit referendum."[102]

United States

Laurence Levy, a lawyer with the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani, advises Rebekah Mercer, Steve Bannon, and Alexander Nix on the legality of their company, Cambridge Analytica, being involved in U.S. elections. He advises that Nix and any foreign nationals without a green card working for the company must not be involved in any decision making regarding any work the company performs for any clients related to U.S. elections. He further advises Nix to recuse himself from any involvement with the company's U.S. election work because he is not a U.S. citizen.[103][104]

2014 midterm elections

CA had entered the US market in 2012[105] (or 2013),[7] and was involved in 44 US congressional, US Senate and state-level elections in the 2014 midterm elections.[105]

The company worked with the John Bolton Super PAC on a major digital and TV campaign focused on senate races in Arkansas, North Carolina and New Hampshire and helped turn out voters for the Republican candidates in those states. Two of the Republican candidates backed by the Bolton Super PAC, Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Tom Cotton in Arkansas, won their Senate bids, while Scott Brown lost in New Hampshire. The PAC ran 15 different spots each in North Carolina and Arkansas and 17 in New Hampshire, mostly online with some targeted directly to households using Dish and DirecTV. All were intended to push Bolton's national security agenda.[106]

CA also supported Thom Tillis's successful campaign to oust Kay Hagan as a senator for North Carolina. The firm was credited for its role in identifying a sizeable cluster of North Carolinians who prioritised foreign affairs, which encouraged Tillis to shift the conversation from state-level debates over education policy to charges that incumbent Kay Hagan had failed to take ISIS's rise seriously.[107] Tillis's campaign and the North Carolina Republican Party paid Cambridge Analytica $345,000 for these services.[108]

CA sent dozens of non-U.S. citizens to provide campaign strategy and messaging advice to Republican candidates in 2014, opening the firm and individuals to prosecution under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, for being foreign agents having not registered through the United States Department of Justice as such.[109]

2016 presidential election

CA's involvement in the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries became known in July 2015.[9] As of December 2015, CA claimed to have collected up to 5,000 data points on over 220 million Americans.[10] At that time Robert Mercer was a major supporter of Ted Cruz.[7][110] The Mercer family funded CA directly and indirectly through several super-PACs as well as through payments via Cruz's campaign.[48]

Ted Cruz became an early major client of CA in the 2016 presidential campaign. Just prior to the Iowa caucuses, the Cruz campaign had spent $3 million for CA's services,[111] with additional money coming from allied Super-PACs.[111] After Cruz's win at the Iowa caucus CA was credited with having been able to identify and motivate potential voters.[112][113] Ultimately the Cruz campaign spent $5.8 million on work by CA.[114]

Ben Carson was a second client of CA; his campaign had paid $220,000 for "data management" and "web service" as reported in October 2015.[11] Marco Rubio's campaign was supported by Optimus Consulting.[115] Meanwhile, the third competitor, Governor John Kasich, was supported by rivalling firm Applecart.[116]

After Cruz dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination in May 2016, Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer started to support Trump.[117] In August, it became known that CA followed their allegiance and worked for Trump's presidential campaign.[114][117] Trump's campaign also worked with digital firm Giles Parscale.[114] In September, the Trump campaign spent $5 million to purchase television advertising.[118] The Trump campaign spent less than $1 million in data work.[119]

In 2016, the company said that it had not used psychographics in the Trump presidential campaign.[120] Cambridge Analytica targeted potential voters with bespoke messages. Cambridge Analytica's data head, Alexander Tayler said, "When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3m votes but won the electoral college vote, [t]hat's down to the data and the research."[121]

The head of Cambridge Analytica said he asked WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, for help finding Hillary Clinton's 33,000 deleted emails.[122][123][124]

On 18 May 2017, Time reported that the US Congress was investigating CA in connection with Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The report alleges that CA may have coordinated the spread of Russian propaganda using its microtargetting capabilities.[125] According to the Trump campaign's digital operations chief, CA worked "side-by-side" with representatives from Facebook, Alphabet Inc. and Twitter on Trump's digital campaign activities.[126]

On 4 August 2017, Michael Flynn, who is under investigation by US counterintelligence for his contacts with Russian officials, amended a public financial filing to reflect that he had served in an advisory role in an agreement with CA during the 2016 Trump campaign.[127]

On 8 October 2017, Brad Parscale, who was the digital media director for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, stated in an interview with Lesley Stahl from CBS News on 60 Minutes that Parscale was able to utilize Facebook advertising to directly target individual voters in swing states.[128] Parscale cited the example in which he was able to target specific universes (audiences) who care about infrastructure and promote Trump and his message to build back up the crumbling American infrastructure.[129] Although he hired Cambridge Analytica to assist with microtargeting, and Cambridge Analytica stated that it was the key to Trump's victory, Parscale denied that he gained assistance from the firm, stating that he thought Cambridge Analytica's use of psychographics doesn't work.[130] He also denied any assistance with links to Russia.[130] According to Parscale, the Clinton Campaign turned down assistance from these platforms.[130]

On 25 October 2017, Julian Assange said that on Twitter that he had been approached by Cambridge Analytica, but said he had rejected its proposal.[131] Assange's tweet followed a story in The Daily Beast[132] alleging that Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix had proposed a collaboration with Wikileaks to find the 33,000 emails that had been deleted from Clinton's private server. CNN said it had been told by several unnamed sources[133] that Nix intended to turn the Clinton email archive released to the public by the State Department into a searchable database for the campaign or a pro-Trump political action committee.

On 14 December 2017, it was revealed that Robert Mueller had requested during the fall of 2017 that Cambridge Analytica turn over the emails of any of its employees who worked on the Trump campaign, as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.[134]

In 2018, the Times of Israel reported that the company had used what Nix had called "intelligence gathering" from British and Israeli companies in their work.[135]

In 2018, following disclosures that the company had improperly used the personal information of over 50 million Facebook users while working on Trump's presidential campaign, the Times of Israel reported that the company had used what Nix had called "intelligence gathering" from British and Israeli companies as part of their efforts to influence the election results in Trump's favor.[136]

Other countries

Cambridge Analytica's executives said in 2018 that the company had worked in more than 200 elections around the world, including in Nigeria, the Czech Republic and Argentina.[54]

See also


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External links


AggregateIQ (AIQ) is a Canadian political consultancy and technology company, based in Victoria, British Columbia. It "integrates, obtains, and normalizes data from disparate so[u]rces".AIQ was founded in 2013 by Zack Massingham, a former university administrator, "turned digital marketing guru", and Christopher Wylie, who went on to work for Cambridge Analytica. As of February 2017, AIQ employed 20 people and was based in downtown Victoria, British Columbia.£3.5 million was spent with AggregateIQ by four pro-Brexit campaigning groups, Vote Leave, BeLeave, Veterans for Britain, and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party. Co-ordination between the groups would have broken UK election law. In May 2018, Facebook told the Commons Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that Vote Leave and BeLeave were targeting exactly the same audiences on Facebook via AIQ.AIQ has been employed by John Bolton, before he was Donald Trump's national security adviser, and by US senators Thom Tillis and Ted Cruz.

AIQ created Ripon, Cambridge Analytica's campaign software platform, which was largely funded by the Cruz campaign.On 6 April 2018, Facebook suspended AggregateIQ from using its platform due to concerns of a possible affiliation with SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. Facebook stated, "In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received FB user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate."On 20 September 2018, AggregateIQ became the first firm to be served a formal notice by the UK's Information Commissioner's Office for breaching the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation. The company launched an appeal against the notice.

Alastair MacWillson

Dr. Alastair Carmichael MacWillson is a British cyber security professional. MacWillson is chair of the Institute of Information Security Professionals, and of Qufaro, and a founding director of Cambridge Analytica. He is, additionally, a principal at the Chertoff Group.MacWillson spent 16 years in the British Foreign Service, working on technical and political risk analysis in the former USSR, the Middle East and the United States.Dr. Alastair Carmichael MacWillson[1] is a British intelligence, security and cyber security professional. MacWillson is chair of the Institute of Information Security Professionals,[2][3] and of Qufaro,[4][5][6] and a founding director of Cambridge Analytica.[1] He is, additionally, a principal at the Chertoff Group.[7][8]MacWillson is referenced as spending 16 years in the British Foreign Service, working on technical and political risk analysis in the former USSR, the Middle East and the United States.[9]However, this was a cover for his real job, as an officer in MI6. He was a direct recruit into the SIS from university, when Oldfield was Chief, and initially specialised in the terrorist threat in Northern Ireland. In 1980, he was posted as a senior intelligence officer in the Oman Research Department (Now Internal Security Service) which was then staffed by several senior SIS and GCHQ personnel, and was Director of Operations until 1989. During that time, he worked with the CIA in establishing a joint US/UK Rapid Deployment Force to combat terrorist events. In late 1989 he returned to the UK and during 1990 published as HMG sanctioned book, entitled Hostage Taking Terrorism [10]. Since 1990, MacWillson had a roving HQ brief as a problem solver and was alleged to have set up a special operations group within SIS. [11]

Aleksandr Kogan

Aleksandr Kogan (born 1985/86), who has also briefly used the name Dr Spectre, is a Moldovan-born data scientist, who is known for having developed the app that allowed Cambridge Analytica to collect personal details of 80 million Facebook users. He works as a research associate at the University of Cambridge.

Alexander Nix

Alexander James Ashburner Nix (born 1 May 1975) is the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica and a former director of the Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) Group, a behavioural research and strategic communications consultancy, leading its elections division (SCL Elections). Cambridge Analytica helped Leave.EU with its Brexit campaign, according to both Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica staff. The company was also engaged by the Ted Cruz and Donald Trump campaigns during the 2016 US presidential election.

Both in the UK and the US campaigns, Cambridge Analytica used private information from over 87 million Facebook users harvested from their profiles without permission.On 20 March 2018, Nix was suspended from Cambridge Analytica after undercover video footage showed him claiming his company was using honey traps, bribery stings, and prostitutes, among other tactics, to influence more than 200 elections globally for his clients.Nix belongs to a noted banking and gentry family who owned a London private bank and a major estate in Crawley, and his family had strong ties to India during British colonial rule. He attended Eton before studying art history and working in finance. He is married to Norwegian shipping heiress Olympia Paus, one of the heirs to the shipping giant Wilh. Wilhelmsen and a member of a billionaire family.

Christopher Wylie

Christopher Wylie (born 19 June 1989) is a Canadian data consultant who previously worked at Cambridge Analytica. In 2018, he released a cache of documents prompting the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, giving The Guardian documents that described the secret workings behind Cambridge Analytica. The documents center around Cambridge Analytica's alleged unauthorized possession of personal private data from some 87 million Facebook user accounts, obtained for the purpose of creating targeted political campaigns for the 2016 US presidential elections. These campaigns were based on psychological and personality profiles mined from the Facebook data which Wylie had commissioned in a mass-data scraping exercise.

On March 27, 2018, Wylie gave evidence to the UK's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee which contained further revelations about the practices at Cambridge Analytica and its associated companies.Wylie's revelations triggered government investigations on both sides of the Atlantic and raised wider privacy concerns.

Data Propria

Data Propria is a company formed in 2018. It is managed by Cambridge Analytica's former head of product, Matt Oczkowski, and employs at least three other former Cambridge Analytica staffers including Cambridge Analytica's former chief data scientist, David Wilkinson. It is reportedly working on the 2020 Donald Trump presidential campaign.


Facebook, Inc. is an American online social media and social networking service company. It is based in Menlo Park, California. Its was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. It is considered one of the Big Four technology companies along with Amazon, Apple, and Google.The founders initially limited the website's membership to Harvard students and subsequently Columbia, Stanford, and Yale students. Membership was eventually expanded to the remaining Ivy League schools, MIT, and higher education institutions in the Boston area. Facebook gradually added support for students at various other universities, and eventually to high school students. Since 2006, anyone who claims to be at least 13 years old has been allowed to become a registered user of Facebook, though variations exist in this requirement, depending on local laws. The name comes from the face book directories often given to American university students. Facebook held its initial public offering (IPO) in February 2012, valuing the company at $104 billion, the largest valuation to date for a newly listed public company. It began selling stock to the public three months later. Facebook makes most of its revenue from advertisements that appear onscreen.

The Facebook service can be accessed from devices with Internet connectivity, such as personal computers, tablets and smartphones. After registering, users can create a customized profile revealing information about themselves. Users can post text, photos and multimedia of their own devising and share it with other users as "friends". Users can use various embedded apps, and receive notifications of their friends' activities. Users may join common-interest groups.

Facebook had more than 2.2 billion monthly active users as of January 2018. It receives prominent media coverage, including many controversies such as user privacy and psychological effects. The company has faced intense pressure over censorship and over content that some users find objectionable.

Facebook's initial public offering (IPO) in February 2012 was the largest initial valuation to date for a public company ($104 billion).

Facebook offers other products and services. It acquired Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus Rift and independently developed Facebook Messenger.

Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal

The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal was a major political scandal in early 2018 when it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of people's Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political purposes. It has been described as a watershed moment in the public understanding of personal data and precipitated a massive fall in Facebook's stock price and calls for tighter regulation of tech companies' use of data.

The illicit harvesting of personal data by Cambridge Analytica was first reported in December 2015 by Harry Davies, a journalist for The Guardian. He reported that Cambridge Analytica was working for United States Senator Ted Cruz using data harvested from millions of people's Facebook accounts without their consent. Facebook refused to comment on the story other than to say it was investigating. Further reports followed in the Swiss publication, Das Magazin, by Hannes Grasseger and Mikael Krogerus, (later translated and published by Vice), Carole Cadwalladr in The Guardian and Matthias Schwartz in The Intercept. Facebook refused to comment on the claims in any of the articles.

The scandal erupted in March 2018 with the emergence of a whistleblower, an ex-Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie. He had been an anonymous source for an article in 2017 in The Observer by Cadwalladr, headlined "The Great British Brexit Robbery". This article went viral but was disbelieved in some quarters, prompting skeptical responses in The New York Times among others. Cadwalladr worked with Wylie for a year to coax him to come forward as a whistleblower. She later brought in Channel 4 News in the UK and The New York Times due to legal threats against The Guardian and The Observer by Cambridge Analytica.

The three news organisations published simultaneously on March 17, 2018, and caused a huge public outcry. More than $100 billion was knocked off Facebook's share price in days and politicians in the US and UK demanded answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The scandal eventually led to him agreeing to testify in front of the United States Congress.

The scandal was significant for inciting public discussion on ethical standards for social media companies, political consulting organizations, and politicians. Consumer advocates called for greater consumer protection in online media and the right to privacy as well as curbs on misinformation and propaganda.

Gathering of personally identifiable information

The gathering of personally identifiable information (PII) is the practice of collecting public and private personal data that can be used to identify an individual for both legal and illegal applications. PII owners often view PII gathering as a threat and violation of their privacy. Meanwhile, entities such as information technology companies, governments, and organizations use PII for data analysis of consumer shopping behaviors, political preference, and personal interests.With the development of new information technology, PII is easier to access and share than before. The use of smartphones and social media has contributed to the widespread usage of PII gathering. PII is collected anywhere and anytime. The dissemination of personal data makes PII gathering a hotly debated social issue.Recent illegal PII gathering by data collection companies, such as Cambridge Analytica on Facebook of over 87 million users, has caused increasing concern over privacy violation and has renewed call for more comprehensive data protection laws. Major security breaches at Equifax, Target, Yahoo, Home Depot, and the United States Office of Personnel Management impacted personal and financial information of millions of American, with calls for increasing information technology security and protection of PII data by businesses and governmental agencies.

Information Commissioner's Office

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO; stylised as ico.) in the United Kingdom, is a non-departmental public body which reports directly to Parliament and is sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It is the independent regulatory office (national data protection authority) dealing with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation, the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 across the UK; and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and, to a limited extent, in Scotland.

Institutional Revolutionary Party

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (Spanish: Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) is a Mexican political party founded in 1929 that held uninterrupted power in the country for 71 years from 1929 to 2000, first as the National Revolutionary Party (Spanish: Partido Nacional Revolucionario, PNR), then as the Party of the Mexican Revolution (Spanish: Partido de la Revolución Mexicana, PRM), and finally renaming itself as the Institutional Revolutionary Party in 1946.

The National Revolutionary Party was founded in 1929 by Plutarco Elías Calles, Mexico's paramount leader at the time and self-proclaimed "Jefe Máximo" (Supreme Chief) of the Mexican Revolution. The party was created with the intent of providing a political space in which all the surviving leaders and combatants of the Mexican Revolution could participate, and to solve the grave political crisis caused by the assassination of president-elect Álvaro Obregón in 1928. Although Calles himself fell into political disgrace and was exiled in 1936, the party continued ruling Mexico until 2000, changing names twice until it became the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Throughout its nine-decade existence, the PRI has adopted a very wide array of ideologies (often determined by the President of the Republic in turn). In the 1980s, the party went through reforms that shaped its current incarnation, with policies characterized as centre-right, such as the privatization of State-run companies, closer relations with the Catholic church, and embracing free-market capitalism. At the same time, the left-wing members of the party abandoned the PRI and founded the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD) in 1989.

Though it is a full member of the Socialist International (along with its rival, the left-wing PRD; Mexico is one of the few nations with two major, competing parties that are part of the same international grouping), the PRI is not considered a social democratic party in the traditional sense.

The adherents of the PRI party are known in Mexico as "Priístas" and the party is nicknamed "El tricolor" (The tricolor) because of its use of the Mexican national colors of green, white and red, as found on the Mexican flag.

Jardim Paulista

Jardim Paulista is a district in the subprefecture of Pinheiros in the city of São Paulo, Brazil.

Grupo Pão de Açúcar has its headquarters in the district. Cambridge Analytica also has an office in the district.

Lord Ivar Mountbatten

Lord Ivar Alexander Michael Mountbatten, DL (born 9 March 1963) is a British aristocrat, farmer, geologist, and former director of SCL Group, parent company of Cambridge Analytica. He is a third cousin, once removed of Queen Elizabeth II. Although he is not a member of the British royal family proper, he is the first member of the British monarch's extended family openly in a same-sex relationship. Lord Ivar married his same-sex partner, James Coyle, on the 22 of September 2018, becoming the first member of the British monarch’s extended family to have a same-sex wedding.

Nigel Oakes

Nigel John Oakes (born July 1962) is a British businessman, and the founder and CEO of Behavioural Dynamics Institute and SCL Group (formerly Strategic Communication Laboratories), the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

Palantir Technologies

Palantir Technologies is a private American software company that specializes in big data analytics. Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, it was founded by Peter Thiel, Nathan Gettings, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, and Alex Karp. The company's name is derived from The Lord of the Rings: a palantír is an artifact used to communicate with or see faraway parts of the world.

The company is known for two projects in particular: Palantir Gotham and Palantir Metropolis. Palantir Gotham is used by counter-terrorism analysts at offices in the United States Intelligence Community (USIC) and United States Department of Defense, fraud investigators at the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, and cyber analysts at Information Warfare Monitor, while Palantir Metropolis is used by hedge funds, banks, and financial services firms. Palantir's original clients were federal agencies of the USIC. It has since expanded its customer base to serve state and local governments, as well as private companies in the financial and healthcare industries. Karp, Palantir's chief executive officer, announced in 2013 that the company would not pursue an IPO, as going public would make "running a company like ours very difficult". That being said, an Oct. 18th, 2018 report by the Wall Street Journal was considering an IPO in the first half of 2019 following a $41 billion evaluation.The company was valued at $9 billion in early 2014, with Forbes stating that the valuation made Palantir "among Silicon Valley's most valuable private technology companies". As of December 2014, Thiel was Palantir's largest shareholder. In January 2015, the company was valued at $15 billion after an undisclosed round of funding with $50 million in November 2014. This valuation rose to $20 billion in late 2015 as the company closed an $880 million round of funding. Palantir has never reported a profit, and in 2018 Morgan Stanley valued the company at $6 billion.

Predictions of Facebook's end

Various publications and commentators have offered a range of predictions of the end of Facebook, a social media website established in 2004.

Commentators have predicated Facebook's end for causes including a declining user base, legal difficulties of being a closed platform, inability to generate revenue, inability to offer user privacy, inability to adapt to mobile platforms, inability to negotiate with the Chinese government, or Facebook ending itself to present a next generation replacement.Commentators have predicted Facebook's end for scandals including Facebook's participation in Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, and the March 2018 Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Rebekah Mercer

Rebekah Mercer (born December 6, 1973) is an American heiress, foundation director, and major Republican donor who oversees the day-to-day operations of philanthropic and political projects for the Mercer family. She began managing the family foundation when the Mercers started getting involved in conservative causes. Her father, billionaire Robert Mercer, said in November 2017 that he had sold his stake in Breitbart to his daughters.

SCL Group

SCL Group (formerly Strategic Communication Laboratories) was a private British behavioural research and strategic communication company. In the United States, SCL has gained public recognition mainly through its subsidiary Cambridge Analytica. It performed data mining and data analysis on its audience. Based on results, communications would then be specifically targeted to key audience groups to modify behaviour in accordance with the goal of SCL's client. The company used to describe itself as a "global election management agency". London-based SCL was founded by Nigel Oakes who serves as its CEO.


Six4Three is a tech company which produced a way to search for bikini pictures from your contacts on Facebook. After Facebook closed off access to data in 2014, the company sued Facebook for destroying that line of business, hoping to recover the money invested in the app. During discovery Six4Three obtained email and/or internal documents allegedly showing how much Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg knew about the privacy gaps in the Facebook partner API. This same API was abused by Cambridge Analytica to data mine information on tens of millions of US voters from a few hundred thousand users. Damian Collins, a UK MP investigating Cambridge Analytica, took interest in the documents and compelled their release in November 2018 by threatening the founder of Six4Three with imprisonment while he was in the UK on other business.

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