Former exployees of Cambridge Analytica have set up a new company intending to scrape internet search histories to find "real triggers", the Financial Times reports.
Cambridge Analytica was forced to close in the wake of a data-sharing scandal earlier this year, but is effectively still operating under a new name (it now goes by Emerdata). Several spin-out companies are also operating using the same techniques - and even employees.
The newest of these firms is known as Auspex International, which according to the FT was launched on the 11th July: one day after the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) began criminal proceedings against Cambridge Analytica's parent company, SCL Elections.
Auspex, based in London, is being led by Mark Turnbull, who was formerly in charge of Cambridge Analytica's political team outside the US and UK. Before joining the now-defunct company, Turnbull worked at Bell Pottinger: the PR firm accused of, among other things, removing negative information from Wikipedia entries and exploiting racial tension in South Africa.
Seven other former Cambridge Analytica employees from Turnbull's team have joined Auspex, which the FT notes has already secured a contract for ‘political work' in an unnamed African state.
The company's sole investor is Ahmad Al-Khatib, a former director at Emerdata. He says that Auspex will bid on political and social work in counter-terrorism messaging. It will use information from a variety of sources, and look for ways to acquire internet histories from companies like Google.
Al-Khatib says that search history is more valuable than data acquired from Facebook, because it shows "real hints and triggers [to a person's motivations."
Although the new firm doesn't own any of Cambridge Analytica's IP, its backers ‘believe clients will pay to deploy its methods and expertise, despite its role in the Facebook scandal'.
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