Data Propria Is a New Firm From a Cambridge Analytica Alum

“There are few people who understand middle America like we do,” Oczkowski says of himself and Parscale. He also plans on building out products similar to the ones Cambridge Analytica’s team built for the campaign. One in particular used data to determine what cities then-candidate Trump should visit based on local support in that place. Oczkowski argues the same tool could help businesses determine where to expand.

Despite Cambridge Analytica’s pariah status, Oczkowski remains an advocate for the company’s work. “Cambridge for better or for worse, depending on how people see them, innovated in this space and pushed the space a long ways,” he says, noting that giant ad agencies like Ogilvy have recently launched their own behavioral data science operations. Meanwhile, academics and marketing professionals have increasingly raised questions about whether this type of behavioral targeting even really works.

Oczkowski acknowledges that any data shop operating in a post-Cambridge Analytica world will necessarily have to think differently about privacy and transparency. Just last week, Vermont became the first US state to pass a law forcing companies like Acxiom that sell people’s data to register with the state. As regulators increasingly force these companies to rethink their business models, Oczkowski says, firms like Data Propria will need to focus on ways to more accurately target people based on the groups they’re affiliated with, not the personally identifying information that can be gleaned from data brokers. For now, companies like Data Propria still have plenty of data streams to pull from, but as Facebook and others overhaul their privacy practices, it’s unclear how long those streams will last.

“There’s a healthy discussion going on about privacy, and I think that’s a discussion absolutely worth having. Then there’s another conversation about convenience and being able to get messaging that matters to you and appeals to you,” Oczkowski says. “I think there’s a happy middle ground in between there that the public has to reconcile, because I don’t think the answer’s going to come from the government or some regulation any time soon.”

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Despite Oczkowski’s clean break from Cambridge Analytica, CloudCommerce is hardly without controversy of its own. In February, the Associated Press reported that Jonathan Lei, the former CEO of the company when it operated under a different name, was the subject of an FBI sting operation in 2006, and later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud. And according to court filings reviewed by WIRED, current CloudCommerce CEO Andrew Van Noy settled a real estate fraud suit in 2010 alleging he accepted $100,000 to buy property in Park City, Utah, and instead spent it on his “personal uses.” In a 2010 bankruptcy filing reviewed by WIRED, Van Noy also reported just over $16,000 in annual income, while his LinkedIn profile reflects that at that time, he was working at Morgan Stanley, managing “over $300 million dollars worth of transactions.”

Gail Gitcho, a former press secretary for the Republican National Committee and a spokesperson for CloudCommerce, said the Associated Press article was “problematic,” and that “Jon Lei has no operational, managerial, or shareholder control of the company. He does not make any decisions on behalf of the company, nor does he have any role in the day-to-day operations.” She did not answer specific questions on the record about Van Noy’s real estate dealings or his bankruptcy filing. After initially offering an interview with Van Noy, Gitcho declined to make him available after WIRED asked questions about his background. In a press release Tuesday, Van Noy said, “The introduction of Data Propria is a crucial step in CloudCommerce’s vision of helping clients learn how data can drive behavior as a change agent for the good.”

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