The press release began by congratulating the new president-elect on his historic victory. Then came the self-congratulatory pat on the back: “Cambridge Analytica was instrumental in identifying supporters, persuading undecided voters, and driving turnout to the polls.” Chief Executive Officer Alexander Nix lauded his company’s revolutionary approach to data-driven communications. The data analytics firm played up their integral role in ushering Donald Trump into the Oval Office.
Just over a year later, much of the “cutting-edge data science and new technologies” employed by Cambridge Analytica are at the heart of a scandal that feels ripped from the pages of George Orwell.
Microtargeting, psychometrics, influence operations — this is the new verbiage gracing the lexicon of political data operations, and the new reality facing the American voter.
The story of Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the Trump campaign is convoluted. However, their aim was relatively simple. The firm intended to leverage a vast amount of Facebook data to discern the personalities and proclivities of members and then utilize that information to tailor unique and individualistic political messaging.