Inside the turbulent final days of Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica found modest success in its quest for commercial clients. Though the company’s client list is confidential, interviews with former employees and previously unreported online records show they attracted a number of high-profile customers, including New York University’s Langone hospital, insurance giant Hiscox, and an environmental-focused Maltese cryptocurrency called Poseidon, among others. Previous mediareports have listed media brands The Economist and The Financial Times, womenswear company ECI New York, and Goldline, a company once heavily pushed by right-wing commentator Glenn Beck that sells gold and silver coins.

But nearly all of Cambridge Analytica’s 50 or so clients abandoned the data analytics company once the scandal hit, former employees said.

Relationship Enrichment Collaborative, an agency that manages advertising for churches and nonprofits, “dropped us like a rock,” a former senior employee said, adding the agency had given Cambridge Analytica more than $1 million over two years. Relationship Enrichment Collaborative did not respond to emails and Facebook messages requesting comment.

Inside the turbulent final days of Cambridge Analytica
Inside the turbulent final days of Cambridge Analytica

The companies who purchased Cambridge Analytica’s services were granted confidentiality as part of their agreement, a senior executive at the company said.

But remnants of Cambridge Analytica’s client list, its attempts to penetrate the U.S. consumer market, and hints at the specifics of its rebrand are detailed in the company’s website certificates, which log communications between servers and are issued by an independent third party.

NBC News discovered some of these clients by using a publicly available search for website certificates. Cambridge Analytica’s client portals were on eponymous websites, like for NYU Langone hospital.

When NYU Langone came calling in March, they didn’t just sever ties, a former Cambridge Analytica employee said. The hospital — Cambridge Analytica’s biggest corporate client, with a contract to pay $3 million phased over three years — wanted its money back.

“They threatened legal action, but we knew they wouldn’t do anything,” a former senior employee said. “They’d be too scared to follow through. They’d be too embarrassed to be linked to us.”

Image: Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie arrives to meet with Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
Former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie arrives to meet with Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 25, 2018.Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters

An NYU spokesperson acknowledged the refund request but denied that there had been any discussion of a lawsuit. That refund never came.

The spokesman said NYU began work with Cambridge Analytica in June 2017, but quickly halted its relationship after the data firm’s salacious political consulting practices became front-page news.

The NYU spokesperson said Cambridge Analytica never offered them any of its controversial Facebook data, but provided “market research to better understand how different audiences consume media and digital marketing based on these learnings,” and was adamant that the university “did not give CA any of NYU Langone’s data.”

After NYU ran a four-week advertising campaign that ended on March 18, Cambridge Analytica provided NYU with preliminary results of the market research study and “an incomplete report on the results of our advertising.“

“We don’t know if they were effective because we pulled our ads so quickly once we heard the news, and Cambridge Analytica has yet to give us the results,” the spokesperson said.

Representatives for Hiscox and for the cryptocurrency Poseidon did not return requests for comment, but a senior executive at Cambridge Analytica confirmed the company’s relationship with the firms.

Trademarks and Rebrands

The website certificate search also turned up a portal for a product called LiveSpend, which prompted a login page.

Cambridge Analytica touted LiveSpend as its own product on its website, calling it a “transparent advertising reporting dashboard that does all the work for you” that would “keep your agency honest.”

The assets on the page, such as the LiveSpend logo, are hosted on the website Datorama, an analytics company that advertises many of the same services LiveSpend claims offer.

Emerdata, the name of a new umbrella company that a Cambridge Analytica senior staffer claimed would have enveloped Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL, filed a trademark for LiveSpend in December of 2017.

Datorama’s spokesperson said that the company “immediately” terminated its relationship with Cambridge Analytica “upon learning of CA’s malfeasance,” and that it “has no relationship with the Cambridge Analytica tool LiveSpend.” The Datorama spokesperson repeatedly said that “no consumer data was used or viewed through our platform.”

The login page for LiveSpend, Emerdata’s sole trademark filing, mirrored login pages of other Datorama clients, and was still accessible until May 8.

“Many Datorama clients, including Cambridge Analytica, ‘white label’ our dashboard by customizing the branding with their logo and graphics,” said Datorama’s spokesperson. “White labeled” products are services that have been rebranded by a company other than the manufacturer, then sold as if it were their own.

Similar Posts