Cambridge Analytica & the Trump Campaign

Cambridge Analytica & the Trump Campaign

During 2016 the Trump presidential campaign paid $5.9 million to data firm Cambridge Analytica, which harvested information from 50 million Facebook users in order to develop psychographic data it used to micro-target advertising to individual voters. Unless it didn’t.

Cambridge Analytica illegally mined FB user data for the Trump campaign. Unless Cambridge Analytica was merely using Facebook the way it was designed to be used, and it’s really Facebook that’s at fault.

Trump Campaign factotum Jared Kushner brought in Cambridge Analytica, funded by the U.S. conservative Mercer family, with links to a Chinese firm through U.S. mercenary Erik Prince, and Steve Bannon was a board member. SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, is British. At the same time, the Make America Number 1 Super PAC paid Cambridge Analytica $5.7 million to develop negative ads targeting Hilary Clinton. The PAC-Trump campaign coordination and foreign involvement are violations of federal election law. Maybe.

In short, Cambridge Analytica was the secret weapon that helped get the 70,000 Trump votes in key states that swayed the 2016 presidential election. Or it wasn’t.



“The Cambridge Analytica Scandal, in 3 Paragraphs,” Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic

“‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower,”  Carole Cadwalladr, The Observer

“The Researcher Who Gave Cambridge Analytica Facebook Data on 50 Million Americans Thought It Was ‘Totally Normal,'” Kaleigh Rogers, Motherboard

“How Cambridge Analytica turned Facebook ‘likes’ into a lucrative political tool,” Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian

“Zuckerberg: Facebook may have influenced election, may need to be regulated,” Ina Fried, Axios

“Cambridge Analytica Suspends CEO Alexander Nix Amid Scandals,” Issie Lapowsky, Wired


“Steve Bannon on Cambridge Analytica: ‘Facebook data is for sale all over the world,'” Joanna Walters, The Guardian

“Cambridge Analytica harnessed Facebook data in work for super PAC led by John Bolton, according to former employees,”Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Craig Timberg and Josh Dawsey, Washington Post

“John Bolton worked with Cambridge Analytica on YouTube voter experiment,” Paul Lewis, The Guardian

“Apple’s Steve Jobs tried to warn Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg about privacy years before the Cambridge Analytica debacle,”  Mike Murphy, Quartz

“Acting Cambridge Analytica CEO apologizes, announces third-party audit,” Sara Fischer, Axios

“This Is So Much Bigger Than Facebook,” Ethan Zuckerman, The Atlantic

“Cambridge Analytica Had Exclusive Rights to Breitbart Data, Says Ex-Director,” Daily Beast


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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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2 Responses to “Cambridge Analytica & the Trump Campaign”

  1. Mateo Raft Says:

    You’re the D.C. guy, so you know better than me, but wasn’t the advent of gerrymandering decades ago dependent on data analysis and manipulation? In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same? More here:

  2. Mike Licht Says:

    It’s one thing (though a reprehensible one) to use public voter and census information for political advantage, and quite another to harvest Facebook profiles (and FB Friend profiles) for political micro-targeting. It can be argued that such capabilities are inherent in the design of social media and search platforms, but maybe it’s time to call that design into question. Political gerrymandering can be countered through the vote and the courts, but we lack a system for bringing Facebook and Google to account.

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