- Emails show Eric Schmidt’s daughter, Sophie Schmidt, suggested that Cambridge Analytica’s parent company work with Palantir when she was an intern.
- CA later developed a relationship with Palantir staffer on the creation of the app that misused 50 million Facebook profiles.
- Both CA and Palantir are owned by conservative billionaires who funded Donald Trump’s election campaign.
LONDON — Peter Thiel’s data-mining company Palantir and former Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s daughter both had connections to Cambridge Analytica’s (CA) misuse of Facebook user information, according to documents seen by The New York Times.
“We learned today that an employee, in 2013-2014, engaged in an entirely personal capacity with people associated with Cambridge Analytica,” Palantir told the Times. “We are looking into this and will take the appropriate action.” Sophie Schmidt did not respond to the paper’s request for comment.
The employee was Alfredas Chmieliauskas, according to the Times. His LinkedIn shows that he is a business development staffer at Palantir in London. He suggested that CA create the personality quiz app that harvested the data of about 50 million Facebook users, documents seen by the Times said.
The connection between Palantir and CA was apparently brokered by Schmidt’s daughter. Sophie Schmidt had been an intern at SCL Group, a UK-based defence and intelligence contractor that created Cambridge Analytica in 2012. She suggested that SCL work with Palantir, according to a 2013 email seen by the Times:
“Ever come across Palantir. Amusingly Eric Schmidt’s daughter was an intern with us and is trying to push us towards them?” one SCL employee wrote to a colleague in the email.
CA and Palantir began their relationship in 2014, when Christopher Wylie, the pink-haired CA co-founder-turned-whistleblower who testified to Parliament in London this week, visited Palantir’s London HQ in Soho Square with CA CEO Alexander Nix. The Times said:
Mr. Chmieliauskas continued to communicate with Mr. Wylie’s team in 2014, as the Cambridge employees were locked in protracted negotiations with a researcher at Cambridge University, Michal Kosinski, to obtain Facebook data through an app Mr. Kosinski had built. The data was crucial to efficiently scale up Cambridge’s psychometrics products so they could be used in elections and for corporate clients.
“I had left field idea,” Mr. Chmieliauskas wrote in May 2014. “What about replicating the work of the cambridge prof as a mobile app that connects to facebook?” Reproducing the app, Mr. Chmieliauskas wrote, “could be a valuable leverage negotiating with the guy.”
Nix later tried to work officially with execs at Palantir but they demurred. Ultimately, CA ended up creating the app without Palantir’s official help.
The emails will make uncomfortable reading for both companies.
Thiel is a Facebook board member and a conservative libertarian with a dystopian view of the future who funded Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign. He became a billionaire through a series of tech investments including PayPal and Facebook.
CA was founded by Robert Mercer, the conservative billionaire hedge fund creator who has also funded Trump and the Breitbart News Network, the right-wing media group that is often accused of publishing misleading stories. The company is now the subject of criminal investigations in both the UK and the US over its role in the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit referendum in the UK. The company has made contradictory statements about its alleged role persuading British people to vote to Leave the EU.