Cambridge Analytica has denied using Facebook data on the 2016 campaign. An internal audit commissioned by Cambridge described Mr. Nix’s statements in the video as an exaggeration.
Cambridge Analytica grew out of the SCL Group, a well-established British company that specialized in psychological research for defense and intelligence agencies but also worked on election campaigns, chiefly in developing countries.
In 2014, SCL executives persuaded Mr. Mercer to bankroll a new United States-based firm, Cambridge Analytica, that would break into the growing political data market with a promising new product: psychological profiles of millions of American voters. The new company was overseen by Mr. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, and then adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, both of whom went on to enjoy influential positions in Mr. Trump’s circle before the president’s break with Mr. Bannon this year.
Also in 2014, a contractor for the new firm used quiz apps and other programs to gather private profile information from as many as 87 million Facebook users, data former Cambridge employees said provided the critical basis for the new company’s voter profiles. The Times also reported in March that the company had sent personnel from Canada and Europe to work on various campaigns in the 2014 midterm elections and in 2016 campaigns, raising questions about Cambridge’s compliance with federal election law, which limits the involvement of noncitizens in election campaigns.
Over the past year, Cambridge’s efforts to break into commercial data and marketing work had suffered from the company’s association with Mr. Trump, according to former employees. And in the months before shutting down, Mr. Nix, the Mercer family and SCL’s owners had considered new ventures together.
One new firm, a British holding company called Emerdata, was formed in part to bring in new investors, according to a former employee. Emerdata’s directors, according to public records, came to include Johnson Ko Chun Shun, a Hong Kong financier and business partner of Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater.
Mr. Ko and Mr. Prince have links to the Chinese government: Citic, a state-owned Chinese financial conglomerate that for decades has employed the sons and daughters of the Communist Party’s elite families, is a major investor in Frontier Services Group, Mr. Ko and Mr. Prince’s Africa-focused logistics company.