Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) and its data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica have both been suspended from Facebook after each “gained access to information” without the consent of certain individuals. And if the latter name sounds familiar, it should; but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The story is a complicated one. At its surface, it seems like a simple suspension, but the implications here are huge — extending all the way up the executive branch to the President. Due to the timing of the piece, and the complex nature of the subject matter, we felt it best to break down the story into digestible bits, a sort of cheat sheet detailing what’s important, and why you should care.
The company isn’t at all dissimilar from other data analysis firms in that its essential function is turning raw sets of data into segmented groups that provide actionable insight for advertisers, or in this case, political parties. These audience segmentation tools allowed Trump, in his 2016 campaign, to target undecided voters and likely Republicans in areas of interest, like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Cambridge Analytica is a data analysis firm. The company was — depending on what you read — either integral to the Brexit leave campaign and Donald Trump’s surprise presidential victory, or selling snake oil that both parties (and others) willfully swallowed.