Graphic by Paul Morris

Report on Cambridge Shows Timeline of Facebook Data Scandal

A new investigative report in Mother Jones magazine explores that depths that Cambridge Analytica plundered social media data and private information in a story entitled, “Cloak and Data: The Real Story Behind Cambridge Analytica’s Rise and Fall.” (Update: The New York Times reported Cambridge Analytica announced today it is filing for bankruptcy as clients abandoned the company following the controversy.)

The story details the way Cambridge Analytica sold its ability to craft political messages to unsuspecting Facebook users with the data it had unethically mined from millions of accounts. In a $4.4 million buy-in by Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign for president, they said they would “couple consumer information with psychological data, harvested from social-media platforms and its own in-house survey research, to group voters by personality type, pegging them as agreeable or neurotic, confrontational or conciliatory, leaders or followers. It would then target these groups with specially tailored images and messages, delivered via Facebook ads, glossy mailers, or in-person interactions.”

The company, however, leveraged Cruz’s campaign to build its technology and lacked savvy in how to execute its stated strategy. Cruz didn’t get his money’s worth, but as the story outlines, Donald Trump did.

Trump hired Steve Bannon, a board member, vice president, and part-owner of Cambridge Analytica, to craft his campaign strategy using their data and exploiting Facebook profiles. Chris Wylie, a former employee, blew the whistle on the company this year, and the fall-out continues. The lengthy story outlines how Robert Mercer, a billionaire from the Long Island-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, bankrolled the effort.

A follow-up story on May 1 contains denials from Cambridge Analytica on how it used data, despite bragging to politicians in other countries that they could get the same results for them that they got for Trump with their “special sauce.”

Read more at Mother Jones