According to the Times, Cambridge Analytica bought the data from Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic. Kogan, who told Facebook he was conducting academic research, built a Facebook personality quiz app called "thisisyourdigitalife." When users downloaded the app, it scraped all of their available Facebook data, including their friends, their likes and where they lived.
More than a quarter-million Facebook users downloaded the app, which also exploited a Facebook vulnerability that allowed it to to collect most of the same data from the friends of those who downloaded it. By prying into the friends lists of those who made the download, Kogan was able to get data from more than 50 million people.
Throughout 2015 and into 2016, the Cruz campaign paid Cambridge Analytica almost $6 million for data that the campaign used for what it called "psychographic targeting," which supposedly allowed the campaign to tailor its message to specific voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, where single voters can make a big difference. Using data from the firm, the campaign built profiles of potential voters, prioritizing those who fit in categories such as "stoic traditionalist" and "true believer".
In December 2015, the same month The Guardian revealed Cambridge Analytica and Kogan's data harvesting practices, Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler called the company a "market leader and the best in the field." Despite Tyler's claim that the Cruz campaign stopped using the firm's data in early 2016, it kept paying Cambridge Analytic until June of that year, a month after Cruz suspended his campaign. After Cruz dropped out of the race, the firm began working with Trump, supporting him through November's general election against Hillary Clinton.
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