Trump's new hire previously worked at Cambridge Analytica, the company accused of targeting Facebook users with political ads before the 2016 election.
- A Politico report revealed that the Trump campaign recently hired a former employee from Cambridge Analytica.
- Cambridge Analytica is the data company that was accused of misusing data by Facebook for targeting certain Facebook users with political ads leading up to the 2016 election.
- Matt Oczkowski, who previously worked as the head of product for Cambridge, was recently hired by the Trump campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The Trump campaign is reportedly hiring a former employee of Cambridge Analytica — the political firm at the heart of the data privacy scandal that plagued the 2016 presidential election results. According to Politico, the campaign will be bringing on Cambridge Analytica's former head of product, Matt Oczkowski, who will manage the campaign's data program, two sources familiar with the hire told Politico.
Oczkowski previously worked on efforts for Trump's 2016 presidential bid and joined the 2020 re-election efforts in January, Politico reported.
The Trump campaign declined to comment or confirm reports of Oczkowski's employment.
Who is Matt Oczkowski?
According to his LinkedIn profile, Oczkowski, 31, is a data and behavioral science specialist that uses "tactics from the worlds of computer, behavioral, and data science, he attempts to connect behavioral dots together to make informed decisions about groups of people."
According to sources who spoke with Politico, Oczkowski will use data to help determine strategies for where and how the campaign should allocate their resources, including where Trump should campaign in person, what states the campaign should target, and more.
Although the scandal-plagued firm is no longer on his LinkedIn profile, Politico reported that Oczkowski was a major player in what was known as "Project Alamo," an online campaign utilizing Facebook advertising that aided Trump's path to victory in 2016. Oczkowski has not immediately responded to Business Insider's requests for comment on his alleged employment by the Trump campaign.
His company, HuMn Behavior was founded in 2014 to help its clients understand what "motivates individuals to take action" and harness that energy for "business growth." Payments to HuMn Behavior on Trump's campaign finance disclosure are expected to confirm reports of Oczkowski's employment.
Oczkowski's previous employer revealed the power and abuses of data on social media platforms
Oczkowski's previous employer was rocked by scandal for its misuse of Facebook data and ceased operations due to the controversy.
Cambridge Analytica was accused by Facebook of improperly obtaining the personal data from over 50 million Facebook users — it was later revealed the firm had actually harvested data from over 87 million. In March 2018, a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed how the firm created psychological profiles of users to sway the public's opinion and the extent of its operations.
The UK-based firm targeted those that were "more prone to impulsive anger or conspiratorial thinking than average citizens" by creating Facebook groups, sharing articles, and advertising.
"Cambridge Analytica needed to infect only a narrow sliver of the population, and then it could watch the narrative spread," Wylie wrote in his book "Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America." The firm began exploring what political topics Facebook users were interested in such as "draining the swamp," guns, and building walls to keep out immigrants as early as 2014.
Cambridge worked for Trump and Ted Cruz, both of whom paid $5 million each to the firm. Cambridge's vice president, Steve Bannon, later became a senior advisor to Trump before he was fired in 2017.
The new hire is sure to draw ire from President Donald Trump's critics and data privacy experts who believe that this could signal efforts by President Donald Trump to use manipulative online tactics to secure another term in the White House. While the controversy culminated in Cambridge eventual downfall, it also laid bare major data privacy and security concerns on the social media platform.
"They [Facebook] waited two years and did absolutely nothing to check that the data was deleted. All they asked me to do was tick a box on a form and post it back," Wylie later revealed.
Emails later revealed that Facebook could have done more to stop the political firm before it was too late. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg later testified in front of Congress and the company was hit with a record $5 billion fine by the Federal Trade Commission in 2019.
Facebook has since pledged to fight foreign interference, increase transparency, and reduce misinformation on its platform leading up to the 2020 election cycle. When it was later discovered that Russian agents posted divisive social and political ads on Facebook days before the 2016 election, the platform began requiring anyone buying these types of ads to verify their location and identity in early 2018.
—Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 9, 2020
Despite Facebook's efforts, data privacy advocates have raised concerns about the ability to sway public opinion for political gain on the platform. But the social media giant has acknowledged it has more work to do to prevent its platform from being misused.
"While our efforts to protect elections are ongoing and won't be perfect, they will make it harder for advertisers to obscure who is behind ads and will provide greater transparency for people," the company wrote in the blog post.