Trump’s third national security advisor, John Bolton, shares at least one thing in common with his first one, Michael Flynn: both men have ties to Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm at the center of a new Facebook privacy firestorm.
In a new story, The New York Times reports that John Bolton’s political action committee The John Bolton Super PAC hired Cambridge Analytica in August 2014, “months after the political data firm was founded and while it was still harvesting the Facebook data.”
In Cambridge Analytica’s early days, Bolton’s PAC funneled $1.2 million toward polling and “behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging” over the course of two years.
“To do that work, Cambridge used Facebook data, according to the documents and two former employees familiar with the work,” The New York Times reports.
That research supported candidates on the right, including Republican Thom Tillis’s 2014 bid for the Senate. According to the report, Bolton’s PAC was aware that the data came from Facebook users, though it’s not clear if Bolton knew that the data was obtained through a Facebook developer without consent.
Cambridge Analytica continues to challenge reports that it held onto data improperly obtained. In a new statement, the company’s acting CEO Alexander Tayler maintains the company’s ignorance about the apparently unlawfully obtained data its parent company licensed from a Facebook developer:
The company believed that the data had been obtained in line with Facebook’s terms of service and data protection laws…
I became Chief Data Officer for Cambridge Analytica in October 2015. Shortly after, Facebook requested that we delete the data. We immediately deleted the raw data from our file server, and began the process of searching for and removing any of its derivatives in our system. When Facebook sought further assurances a year ago, we carried out an internal audit to make sure that all the data, all derivatives and backups had been deleted, and gave Facebook a certificate to this effect. Please can I be absolutely clear: we did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election.
Like Cambridge Analytica, Bolton’s PAC was a financial beneficiary of Robert Mercer, a conservative financier with considerable influence in the Trump administration.