Cambridge Analytica bought psychological profiles on individual US voters, costing roughly 75 cents to $5 apiece, each crafted using personal information plundered from millions of Facebook accounts, according to revealed internal documents.
Over the course of the past two weeks, whistleblower Chris Wylie has made a series of claims against his former employer, Cambridge Analytica, and its parent organizations SCL Elections and SCL Group.
He has alleged CA drafted in university academic Dr Aleksander Kogan to help micro-target voters using their personal information harvested from Facebook, and that the Vote Leave campaign in the UK’s Brexit referendum “cheated” election spending limits by funneling money to Canadian political ad campaign biz AggregateIQ through a number of smaller groups.
Cambridge Analytica has denied using Facebook-sourced information in its work for Donald Trump’s US election campaign, and dubbed the allegations against it as “completely unfounded conspiracy theories.”
A set of internal CA files released Thursday by Britain’s House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee includes contracts and email exchanges, plus micro-targeting strategies and case studies boasting of the organization’s influence in previous international campaigns.
Among them is a contract, dated June 4, 2014, revealing a deal struck between SCL Elections and Kogan’s biz Global Science Research, referred to as GS in the documents. It showed that Kogan was commissioned by SCL to build up psychological profiles of people, using data slurped from their Facebook accounts by a quiz app, and match them to voter records obtained by SCL.
The app was built by GS, installed by some 270,000 people, and was granted access to their social network accounts and those of their friends, up to 50 million of them. The information was sold to Cambridge Analytica by GS.
GS’s fee was a nominal £3.14, and up to $5 per person during the trial stage. The maximum payment would have been $150,000 for 30,000 records.
The price tag for the full sample was to be established after the trial, the document stated, but the total fee was not to exceed $0.75 per matched record. The total cost of the full sample stage would have been up to $1.5m for all two million matches. Wylie claimed roughly $1m was spent in the end.
Elsewhere in the cache are documents relating to the relationship between AggregateIQ and SCL.
One file laid out an AIQ contract to develop a platform called Ripon – which SCL and later CA is said to have used for micro-targeting political campaigns – in the run-up to the 2014 US mid-term elections. Although this document wasn’t signed, it indicated the first payment to AIQ was made on April 7, 2014: a handsome sum of $25,000 (CA$27,000, £18,000).
A separate contract showed the two companies had worked together before this. It is dated November 25, 2013, and set out a deal in wbhich AIQ would “assist” SCL by creating a constituent relationship management (CRM) system and help with the “acquisition of online data” for a political campaign in Trinidad and Tobago.
The payment for this work was $50,000, followed by three further installments of $50,000. The document is signed by AIQ cofounders: president Zackary Massingham, and chief operating officer Jeff Silvester. Project deliverables include data mapping, and use of behavioral datasets of qualified sources of data “that illustrate browsing activity, online behaviour and social contributions.”
A large section in the document, under the main heading for CRM deliverables, between sections labelled “reports” and “markup and CMS integration design / HTML markup,” is heavily redacted.
The document dump also revealed discussions between Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire CA backer Robert Mercer, and Trump strategist Steve Bannon, about how to manage the involvement of UK-based Cambridge Analytica – a foreign company – with American elections and US election law, as well as praise for SCL from the UK’s Ministry of Defence.