FEATURE7 June 2017

Trump’s data gurus

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Brexit Data analytics Features North America UK

Data specialist Cambridge Analytica shot to the world’s attention when it worked with Donald Trump on his winning campaign for control of the White House, trailing controversy in its wake. Its lead data scientist, Dr David Wilkinson, speaks to Jane Bainbridge.

Trump pence

At an event last year, to predict the trends for the coming 12 months, one of the presenter’s tips was to ‘look out for Cambridge Analytica – it is getting a lot right and we’re going to hear a lot more from it’. It was the start of people outside the niche world of big data hearing the name Cambridge Analytica (CA), and its profile has only increased since, though not always for the reasons it may have hoped.

When it comes to the influence, strategy, client list, behavioural-prediction accuracy and technical success of the company, there’s a counter claim for every claim. Its work for the Donald Trump presidential campaign has secured it publicity and press scrutiny, but other aspects of its business remain opaque – such as the billionaire US conservative political donor Robert Mercer reportedly being a shareholder, and its involvement with the Leave.EU campaign (CA had denied it worked for the campaign group, ...