Psychological profiles of every US voter are being developed by Trump-backed ‘dark data’ firm
The data firm Cambridge Analytica, which is funded by the Mercer family, claims to have collected the “psychological profiles of over 200 million American voters,” Democracy Now! reported based on New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer’s latest work.
The Mercer family also has stakes in Breitbart, and placed former Breitbart executive and current White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon on the firm’s board. Cambridge Analytics was hired by President Donald Trump’s campaign last year in an effort to reach specific targeted audiences for votes — what some described as an online “voter suppression operation.”
Mayer joined Democracy Now! to discuss the significance of the firm, and specifically what it means for Cambridge Analytica to be working with Bannon.
The Mercer family “basically invested heavily in building an — it’s an offshoot of an existing English company called Strategic Communication Laboratories,” said Mayer.
She explained, “The British company [Strategic Communication] had been involved in psychological warfare operations for militaries and international elections and kind of some pretty interesting and sneaky-seeming things, which raised a lot of eyebrows when its offshoot was purchased, basically, created by this one hedge-fund family.”
Mayer did note that the Trump campaign’s use of analytics to target specific audiences is not unlike what other companies do — the Democrats used similar technology during former President Barack Obama’s campaigning.
“The truth is, during the Trump campaign, they never used any of their so-called secret psychometric methods,” she explained. “They simply performed like any other kind of data analytics company.”
However, the significance is where “dark data,” like “dark money,” plays an important role in American politics, and particularly in the “rise of the radical right,” as Mayer explored in her work.
In her New Yorker piece, Mayer wrote how some worried that Bannon was “exploiting [the Mercer’s] political inexperience and tapping its fortune to further his own ambitions.”
“It was Bannon who urged the Mercers to invest in a data-analytics firm. He also encouraged the investment in Breitbart News,” Mayer wrote. Quoting a previous interview of Bannon’s, Mayer noted how he “praised the Mercers’ strategic approach” and how they “laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution. Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody.”
Watch the full clip below.