Updated: Jan 18, 2021
The increasing amount of personal information being shared or stored online has provided private companies the opportunity to use this data to create targeted messaging profiles. These profiles allow for political campaigns to direct content and advertisements towards individuals or groups who will be most affected by the message.
Four companies engaged with the Trump Campaign during the 2016 election: Cambridge Analytica, Psy Group, Colt Ventures, and VizSense. Of these companies, the campaign worked mostly with Cambridge Analytica, who used vast amounts of Facebook data to create targeted messaging profiles. The Trump campaign claims they used Cambridge Analytica mostly for fundraising purposes, however, documents suggest that it is possible they used their psychographic profiling services.
Psy Group pitched the Trump campaign but did not do any work for the campaign directly. VizSense pitched the Trump campaign also but was initially unsuccessful. However, it does appear that Colt Ventures, which is invested in VizSense, used VizSense to do some influence work for the Trump Campaign.
Many of the tactics used by these companies, including micro targeting and the use of fake profiles to spread messages, are also used by intelligence services.