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Here's How Peter Thiel Is Connected to the Facebook Ploy to Elect Trump

Christopher Wylie and Peter Thiel
From left: Christopher Wylie and Peter Thiel

Thiel's Palantir Technologies reportedly advised Cambridge Analytica on how to harvest the data, ultimately deployed in an effort to gain votes for Donald Trump.

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An employee of Peter Thiel's Palantir Technologies recommended the strategy that Cambridge Analytica used to gather data on millions of American Facebook users -- data that Cambridge then employed to mobilize support for Donald Trump's presidential campaign, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

The Palantir employee, London-based Alfredas Chmieliauskas, suggested that Cambridge Analytica scientists create a personality quiz to be used via a cell phone app to access Facebook users' friend networks, the Times reports. Cambridge Analytica did end up using such a strategy, with a university professor harvesting data from more than 50 million Facebook members in the summer of 2014, according to the Times.

Thiel, also a founder of PayPal, is a gay man who strongly supported Trump in the 2016 election, even speaking at the Republican National Convention. Thiel was also an early investor in Facebook and continues to serve on the company's board. Cambridge Analytica's primary owner is another wealthy Trump supporter, Robert Mercer.

Initially Palantir officials said the company never had a relationship with Cambridge Analytica, but they then revised it to say that Chmieliauskas was acting "in an entirely personal capacity," not as an employee of Palantir, when he advised Cambridge Analytica on the strategy. "We are looking into this and will take the appropriate action," Palantir told the Times.

Palantir officials said they knew of no other employees who worked with Cambridge Analytica but were continuing to investigate. However, Cambridge Analytica cofounder Christopher Wylie told a committee of the U.K. Parliament Tuesday that multiple "senior Palantir employees" worked on the data harvesting project, the Times reports.

"There were Palantir staff who would come into the office and work on the data," Wylie told lawmakers. "And we would go and meet with Palantir staff at Palantir." He did not name the employees or say how many there were, and he said the two companies did not sign a contract or have a formal business relationship. But they were in close communication as Cambridge Analytica sought to develop the mobile app, ultimately designed by Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan, according to the Times. It helped to "develop psychological profiles of millions of American voters," the paper reports.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.