The Cambridge Analytica data scandal came to light in March of 2018 and has since been dubbed the 'biggest political scandal of the century', as data harvested from over 87 million Facebook profiles was used to determine the outcome of both the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential election.
After a year of litigation between Facebook and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the company have agreed to pay a £500,000 fine for its role in the scandal.
But where are the main people involved today, and was Cambridge Analytica ever really disbanded, or merely rebranded?
Former Research Director @ Cambridge Analytica
Fashion Consultant @ H&M
Christopher Wylie was responsible for the Cambridge Analytica data scandal coming to light as he leaked information to the Guardian.
In the same month the Facebook data was acquired in June 2014, Wylie registered a company named 'Eunoia Technologies' in Delaware at his parents' home address. The intention was to compile a large consumer database with information on lifestyle, psychographics, demographics, buying habits and personal tastes. Although it was stated: "we absolutely do NOT want to be perceived as a data company.” It is unclear how successful the company was and it was officially dissolved in October 2017.
Cambridge Analytica wrote a statement on April 9th stating that Wylie set up a competing firm, "using [their] data and contacts" and portrayed him as a disgruntled former employee. This idea was supported by Nix in an interview with the Spectator this year.
Since then, Wylie has published a book entitled 'Mindf*ck: Inside Cambridge Analytica's Plot to Break the World' which details the ways in which the company influenced the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum. He now focuses on raising awareness about the ways in which personal data is used and has given evidence to governments around the world.
Wylie is also pursuing a career in fashion as he spoke at the annual Business of Fashion Voices event in Oxfordshire last November and signed a consultancy contract earlier this year with fashion retailer H&M.
Co-founder & former CEO @ Cambridge Analytica
Former Director @ Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL Group)
Nix was featured in Channel 4's documentary 'Data, Democracy and Dirty Tricks'. Speaking to a prospective client, he suggested the company could "send some girls around" to the opposing candidate's house, adding that Ukrainian girls "are very beautiful, [he] find[s] that works very well."
After the liquidation of Cambridge Analytica, The Financial Times reported that Nix took £8M from CA; the money was reportedly taken to be used on setting up CA's successor firm, Emerdata. Nix was listed as the Director/CEO of Emerdata in January and resigned in March of 2018. The company shared the same office as SCL Elections (the parent company of CA) and was run by many former CA employees. The information listed on Companies House suggests that Emerdata offered the same services as CA, as their services were described as "data processing, hosting and related activities."
Nix also featured in Netflix's documentary 'The Great Hack' and was due to speak at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019 - ironically, about 'the morality of data'. The Netflix documentary was scheduled to be released on the same day at the festival, and Nix pulled out just 24 hours prior before his appearance was set to take place.
Former Business Development Director @ Cambridge Analytica
Co-Founder @ Digital Asset Trade Association (DATA)
In 2019, Kaiser appeared in the Netflix documentary 'The Great Hack' as a whistleblower, offering an exposé. However, many believe she was not a genuine whistleblower and instead jumped ship at the last opportunity, including Carole Cadwalladr, the journalist who first broke the story. Cadwalladr tweeted about Kaiser's involvement in the illegal computer hackers she introduced to CA and the employees lives this consequently endangered.
Kaiser has since written a book entitled 'Targeted', a memoir divulging the details of how CA exploited weaknesses in privacy laws and how this could occur again. She has also become a public advocate for data rights, setting up a campaign called #OWNYOURDATA, which petitions for people to be in control of their own data and decide to uses/buys it. She has spoken at various conferences and events and is the co-founder of DATA, an advocacy group for Distributed Ledger Technology.
Former Founder & CEO @ SCL Group
Chairman @ Behavioural Dynamics Institute
Nigel Oakes was heavily involved in the running of Cambridge Analytica, working alongside Nix. Despite his active role in the scandal, Oakes was largely left alone by press. In part, this can be attributed to his relationship with Lady Helen Windsor in the early 90's.
There is very limited information available about Oakes online, most of which relates to the CA scandal and his previous role at the SCL Group. It is believed that he currently resides in Dubai.
He has admitted in a podcast for The Truth Trade towards the end of 2018 that he operated for many years "without much of an ethical radar."
Oakes set up the Behavioural Dynamics Institute before founding the SCL Group; he is still an active chairman today, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Former lecturer: Department of Psychology @ University of Cambridge
CEO & Founder @ Philometrics
Kogan was the developer of the personality quiz app that was used in conjunction with psychological profiles built with personal data harvested from Facebook profiles. During Kogan's time at the University of Cambridge, he also maintained an active collaboration with Facebook as a consultant.
Facebook claimed they were misled by Kogan about how the data would be used, which Kogan has refuted and is now suing Facebook for defamation.
"Facebook knew exactly what this app was doing, or should have known. Facebook desperately needed a scapegoat, and Alex was their scapegoat."
- Kogan's lawyer to the New York Times
Kogan set up Philometrics, a company which specialised in creating surveys and analysing and forecasting the results. This was set up towards the end of 2017 and Kogan was registered as the director with his alternate surname, Spectre. The company was dissolved in April of 2019.
Former Managing Director @ Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections
Current Managing Director @ Auspex International
Before working at CA, Turnbull had previously worked for as a strategist for Bell Pottinger, a PR firm which closed a couple of years ago after being accused of fuelling racial tension in South Africa.
Turnbull was one of the CA employees featured in Channel 4's undercover documentary, in which he was recorded describing how the company gathers detrimental material on opponents and publishes this online, stating "it has to happen without anyone thinking 'that's propaganda' because the moment you think 'that's propaganda', the next question is: 'who's put that out?"
Despite being involved in two scandals, Turnbull shows no signs of remorse, stating: "I’ve never been in a position where I’ve felt really, genuinely morally compromised."
Turnbull was an honorary fellow at the Exeter University Strategy and Security Institute. The University of Exeter confirmed that his status had been revoked when the scandal broke and severed ties with him entirely.
Turnbull currently works for Auspex International, a company set up by former CA employees that employ the same data analysis techniques in the Middle East and Africa. The sole investor of the company is Ahmad Al-Khatib, a former director of Emerdata, another CA-linked company which was also created during the time of the scandal.
Former CTO @ Cambridge Analytica
Founder @ Coolidge Technology Ltd & Broadwing Ltd
Darren Bolding was the RNC Chief Technology Officer during Trump's presidential campaign in 2016.
Since then, Bolding has founded Coolidge Technology Ltd in December 2017, a company which builds systems and tools for businesses to aid information-processing from multiple sources. He also later set up Broadwing Ltd in January 2019, a software and systems engineering consultancy; both of these companies are based in Colorado Springs.
In June 2018, Bolding made an appearance as a keynote speaker at TechRoanoake, a technology-based networking event targeted at conservatives and those who are centre-right.
Former Chief Data Officer @ Cambridge Analytica
Former Director @ Emerdata
Alex Tayler worked as a Chief Data Officer for CA and also acted as interim CEO after Alexander Nix's departure from the company. Tayler was involved in setting up Emerdata and held a Director position for a month, according to information listed on Companies House.
He currently works as an independent consultant and has done so for the past year and six months, describing himself on his website as a "data scientist consultant, data privacy advocate, and tech entrepreneur." He offers strategic advice on "data analytics and data regulatory compliance."
The Mercer Family
Cambridge Analytica was partly owned by the infamously wealthy Mercer family, as Robert Mercer co-founded the company and was a major investor. The family appeared to be largely unaffected by the scandal.
In 2016, Robert and Diana Mercer donated $15.5M to various organisations to help elect Trump. The Washington Post reported that the family spent more than $49M on political activities in 2016, and that this spending dropped to $2.9M in 2018. One of the main reasons given for their spending cutback was to avoid press scrutiny for their association with Trump.
However, it seems as though the Mercers continued to donate, but did so anonymously by funnelling money into a dark money group, the Donors Trust. The Mercers funnelled $8.1M in 2018, according to the family foundation's 2018 tax return. The Donors Trust was created in the late 1990's to protect the identify of donors as millions are funnelled into conservative groups.
Robert Mercer was also co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, and was reportedly pushed out of his leadership position in November 2017. This was due to his backing of Breitbart News, a right-wing website which was said to have been hurting morale at the world's most profitable hedgefund.
Since then, the Mercers have continued to donate millions to a range of groups and charities, including the Anglosphere Society, a group of conservative activists that promotes “cultural events for sharing ideas based on the historic values of English-Speaking Peoples.”
Cambridge Analytica: Disbanded or Rebranded?
We know Emerdata, a successor firm of Cambridge Analytica was created, although this was liquidated - as was the parent company, the SCL Group.
We know Auspex International was also founded by former Cambridge Analytica employees and offer similar services, although the areas they operate in are primarily in Africa and the Middle East. And we know this company is still active today.
“It’s the end of the show. The whole lot is gone. There’s no secret. For anything like this to recreate itself you need a team of people to work together but nobody is working together. Everybody has gone off to do their own things.”
- Nigel Oakes to Bloomberg in 2018
But who knows?
Update: Tuesday 7th January 2020
'Democracies around the world are being auctioned to the highest bidder.'
Now we do know.
A new leak originating from Cambridge Analytica revealed the tactics previously used to manipulate voters in the Brexit referendum and the 2016 presidential election are still widely in-use and have expanded to operate in 68 countries.
The release of more than 100,000 documents began on New Year's Day, posted on Twitter by an anonymous account named @HindsightFiles revealed that the manipulation of voters is continuing to occur on "an industrial scale". The documents being retrieved from the email accounts and hard drives of Brittany Kaiser, a former business development director for the company.
Despite having handed over documents to parliament in April 2018 during the scandal, Kaiser stated there were thousands more pages she never released which showed a "breadth and depth of the work" which extended "way beyond what people think they know about 'the Cambridge Analytica scandal".
Kaiser also stated that the Facebook data scandal was part of a global operation that involved governments, intelligence agencies, commercial companies and political campaigns. These operations set out to manipulate and influence citizens, and raised huge national security implications.