Scandal-ridden Cambridge Analytica is gone but its staffers are hard at work again

Don’t be deceived by the empty offices of Cambridge Analytica.
Don’t be deceived by the empty offices of Cambridge Analytica.
Image: Reuters/Leah Millis
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Hang on to your data, dear Facebook friends. Cambridge Analytica—the political consultancy that collapsed into bankruptcy in May after a scandal about its nefarious information-collection methods—is apparently metamorphosing.

The company that Marc Zuckerberg admitted targeted 87 million Facebook users’ data, and whose work could well have influenced elections in the US and UK, may be currently disgraced. But it also appears to be putting a new face on its same old data-gathering gig. The Associated Press (AP) on June 15 reported that top staffers from the fallen consultancy are back on the job at a newly-formed company with a name that’s eerily reminiscent of the last place they worked—Data Propria.

As the name implies, the new company is similarly preoccupied with gathering information, specifically to target voters and consumers. Basically, it’s the same mission that Cambridge Analytica had. Matt Oczkowski—head of product at the predecessor firm—is leading Data Propria, which also employs Cambridge Analytica’s former chief data scientist, David Wilkinson, and others from the scandal-ridden company.

Quartz’s research shows the new company was incorporated in Nevada in February 2018 by Andrew Van Noy, who is the Chief Executive Officer at Cloud Commerce. It happens that Cloud Commerce last year bought out the media marketing company of Donald Trump’s 2020 election campaign manager Brad Parscale, which is all the more reason to be wary of this new entity.

In fact, the president’s campaign manager may already be angling for Americans’ votes in 2020. The AP writes that its reporters overheard a “conversation in a public place” between Oczkowski and an unnamed person in which the Data Propria chief claimed that he and Parscale were busy “doing the president’s work for 2020.”

When speaking directly to the news agency, however, Oczkowski denied that he is involved with the next presidential campaign. He admits to having a contract with the Republican National Committee to work on 2018 midterm campaigns but calls this contract “modest.” Still, he says he is ”obviously open to any work that would become available,” and notes that he and Parscale worked together closely during Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Similarly, Parscale tells the AP he is “laser-focused” on the Senate in 2018 and hasn’t yet begun to hire for the 2020 election campaign, though he himself was hired to manage it in March. In any case, it seems he’ll have his close contacts lined up when the time to hire comes.