At least four former employees of Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining firm that improperly harvested the private data of 87 million Facebook users during the 2016 presidential race, are working for President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, a new report says.
They work for a new company called Data Propria, a new company that specializes in voter and consumer targeting similar to the work Cambridge Analytica did before it closed in May, the Associated Press reports. Cambridge Analytica’s former head of product, Matt Oczkowski, leads the new company, which also includes Cambridge Analytica’s former head data scientist.
And Data Propria is apparently trying to obscure their involvement with Trump 2020. AP’s reporters overheard Oczkowski telling political contacts that he and Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, were “doing the president’s work for 2020.” When asked, Oczkowski denied ties to the Trump campaign and said that Data Propria was simply working for the Republican National Committee. Data Propria is working on 2018 midterm-election-related data work for the RNC, a contract awarded last week.
Background on the Data Propria people now tied to Trump 2020
Parscale was the head of the Trump 2016 digital operation, and Oczkowski led the Cambridge Analytica data team that worked with the Trump campaign. Parscale is a part-owner of Data Propria’s parent company, the AP reports.
Cambridge Analytica was backed by Republican megadonor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah and once headed by former White House adviser Steve Bannon. This spring, a series of bombshell pieces by the New York Times and the Guardian revealed that Cambridge Analytica had improperly vacuumed up data that could be used to target voters, and that Bannon had used Cambridge Analytica data to test phrases like “drain the swamp,” which were later used by Trump. In a hidden-camera sting by the UK’s Channel 4, the company’s CEO, Alexander Nix, said Cambridge Analytica was heading the entire Trump 2016 data operation, and he boasted of using blackmail and extortion techniques to influence elections.
Amid a UK government investigation into its misuse of Facebook, Cambridge Analytica said it was folding in May. A similar data company, Emerdata, was registered in the UK last March, with Rebekah Mercer and Nix listed as directors. The head of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company claimed Emerdata has been folded at the same time as Cambridge Analytica. But the UK’s Companies House database shows changes to Emerdata’s board of directors were made as recently as last week.
According to Yahoo News, special counsel Robert Mueller has been looking into Parscale’s efforts on the 2016 campaign. His question: How Russian trolls were able to target anti-Clinton, pro-Trump digital propaganda to hotly contested battleground states, and whether anyone inside the Trump campaign helped them.