Did Cambridge Analytica take your data? Here is how to find out. Former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee April 25, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee, Getty Images) WASHINGTON -- Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie told House Democrats that former Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon used the firm's research to discourage Democrats from voting in the 2016 election, according to testimony released Wednesday. Democrats from the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked Wylie in a closed-door session on Tuesday whether Bannon had specifically talked about voter disenfranchisement or disengagement. "Yes," Wylie responded, according to the transcript released by the Democrats.
This piece was originally published on Just Security, an online forum for analysis of U.S. national security law and policy. In an age of conspiracy theories and internet hoaxes, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. In the last few days, a number of incredible claims were made about the shadowy firm Cambridge Analytica and its relationship to both Facebook and the Trump campaign that seem like a combination of Black Mirror and Burn After Reading. But drilling down into recent and past reporting shows the likelihood that Cambridge Analytica helped spur the Russian disinformation operation during the 2016 election. A whistleblower--a former Cambridge Analytica employee named Christopher Wylie--revealed evidence that the firm had extracted the information of 50 million Facebook users, which it then employed in the data models it used to help elect Donald Trump.
The assignments came amid efforts to present the newly created company as "an American brand" that would appeal to U.S. political clients even though its parent, SCL Group, was based in London, according to former Cambridge Analytica research director Christopher Wylie. The effort was designed to present the newly created company, whose parent, SCL Group, was based in London, as "an American brand" that would appeal to U.S. political clients, according to former Cambridge Analytica research director Christopher Wylie. Wylie, who emerged this month as a whistleblower, provided The Washington Post with documents that describe a program across several U.S. states to win campaigns for Republicans using psychological profiling to reach voters with individually tailored messages. The documents include previously unreported details about the program, which was called "Project Ripon" for the Wisconsin town where the Republican Party was born in 1854. U.S. election regulations say foreign nationals must not "directly or indirectly participate in the decision-making process" of a political campaign, although they can play lesser roles.
"The company learned that there were segments of the population that responded to messages like'drain the swamp' or images of border walls or indeed paranoia about the'deep state' that weren't necessarily reflected in mainstream polling or mainstream political discourse that Steve Bannon was interested in to help build his movement," Wylie said.
British data firm Cambridge Analytica is currently under fire on multiple continents for its methods, namely using data illegitimately collected from Facebook users in order to create psychological profiles of some 50 million American voters. For some perspective, if that 50 million number holds, it would account for more than a quarter of the votes cast on election day in 2016. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million votes with nearly 63 million votes. The London-based firm linked up with the Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, but former Trump campaign chief and White House adviser Steve Bannon was involved with the company long before the Trump campaign has morphed from theoretical nightmare to an actual one. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Bannon, who was then the head of Breitbart News with a billionaire patron in Robert Mercer, was deeply influential in the early formation of Cambridge Analytica and signed off on its acquisition of the dodgy data.