Indyworks’ Steven Haft talks with Alexander Tayler, Chief Data Officer of Cambridge Analytica. A widely shared article of Swiss epaper Das Magazin recently claimed that Cambridge Analytica had played a major role in the election of Donald Trump. What exactly are the psychometrics Cambridge Analytica uses, how does the microtargeting work and what can we expect from digital campaigns in the near future?
How do they predict somebody's likelihood to vote for a specific candidate? What is the secret science behind it?
There are two components the company provides:
• The first one has nothing to do with psychology or psychographics according to Taylor. The company takes large scale political polling together with market research datasets and combines them with all the individual data that is available to buy off the shelf in America. All this data combined with machine learning helps them to make predictions.
• The second one is Behavioural Science Research – to help their clients to gain more engagement with their audience
Did they expect a year ago that Donald Trump could be elected?
• At that time, Cambridge Analytica was working for Cruz for President and he seemed like a serious contender to Taylor.
How do the big five that are mentioned in the article relate to Cambridge Analytica’s system?
• The big five started with two American scientists suggesting that every given personality can be captured via 5 different traits. These are actively researched by scientists all over the world.
• Tayler claims, he had heard Kosinski, the name of the scientist portrayed in the article, for the first time when he read the article. However, he admits, that they have worked with scientists from Kosinski's department in Cambridge.
Is it true that they ran 175 000 differently tweaked versions of one ad to target people according to their profile?
• They have worked with tens of thousands different versions in the Trump campaign – based on data science. Tweaking to match their psychological scoring does not result in so many different versions.
• Psychological scoring is the icing on the cake. The cake – where you get most of your value – is data science. Adding psychological scoring will drive more clicks and engagement for less costs, but it is not a panacea that will put an unelectable candidate into office.
Is there anybody he and his firm won't work for?
Taylor says yes, they will always check:
• if they are able to add value for the client
• if there is a business risk in taking the assignment
• if it is a cultural fit for the company
He also adds that a lot of things they have done in the Trump campaign could not be transferred to a European campaign due to the stricter privacy protection in Europe where you need consent to collect personal data.