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Trump’s 2020 campaign is reportedly using former Cambridge Analytica employees to target voters

Trump’s 2020 campaign is reportedly using former Cambridge Analytica employees to target voters

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illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Data analysis company Data Propria, led by a former Cambridge Analytica strategist, is reportedly working on President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. The Associated Press reports that Data Propria has begun work on a project “along the lines” of Cambridge Analytica’s controversial work for Trump in 2016. Data Propria head Matt Oczkowski denied the claim, though he didn’t rule the idea out for the future.

The AP writes that Data Propria, which launched late last month, is affiliated with at least four employees of now-defunct Cambridge Analytica. (Oczkowski himself was formerly Cambridge Analytica’s head of product.) Like Cambridge Analytica, Data Propria uses data and behavioral science to target internet users with ads or political messages. The company has confirmed that it’s got a “modest” contract with the Republican National Committee for this year’s midterm elections.

“Doing the president’s work for 2020.”

But the AP cites sources that claim it’s already started work on Trump’s 2020 campaign, and two AP reporters overheard a public conversation where Oczkowski said he and Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale were “doing the president’s work for 2020.” (Parscale also denies that he’s handed out any such contracts for 2020 elections.) Data Propria’s parent corporation CloudCommerce acquired Parscale’s digital marketing company last year.

Cambridge Analytica developed supposedly hyper-targeted “psychographic” profiles of voters during the 2016 presidential election, producing results that were described as manipulative — although it’s unclear how effective they really were. Oczkowski downplayed the similarities between this and Data Propria’s work, telling the AP that it would stick to standard data analytics instead of “going down the psychometrics side of things.”

Cambridge Analytica shut down after revelations that it had worked with a huge database of surreptitiously collected Facebook user information. Data Propria hasn’t been caught doing anything shady at this point, but if the AP’s reporting is correct, we’re already seeing the start of a high-tech fight for internet users’ votes in 2020.