Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the only Silicon Valley titan who figures to be swept up in the unfolding Cambridge Analytica scandal surrounding the illegal use of more 50 million Facebook users’ private information — and this latest connection just happens to be President Donald Trump’s biggest backer in the tech world.
As pointed out by Digg, testimony from Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie and a recent New York Times report both point to the involvement of Palantir employees in coming up with the tools that Cambridge Analytica would use to harvest Facebook users’ informations for political campaigns. The founder of Palantir is Peter Thiel, the endlessly controversial billionaire whose past projects include harvesting young people’s blood, dabbling in dubious herpes research, maybe trying to resurrect woolly mammoths, and definitely helping elect Donald Trump.
The report doesn’t implicate Thiel himself. The employee in question, Alfredas Chmieliauskas, appears to have communicated with Cambridge Analytica employees using his private account. That may be the extent of the involvement, though an intern — who just happened to be Stephanie Schmidt, the daughter of former Google chairman Steve Schmidt — at Cambridge Analytica’s forerunner did suggest the company partner with Palantir.
What can be said, however, is that Thiel now sits adjacent to multiple aspects of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He sits on the board of Facebook. An employee of his security company offered key advice to Cambridge Analytica as they started building the tools that created the current scandal. And one of the biggest beneficiaries of this tech is Trump, the man Thiel placed his full support behind in the 2016 presidential election.
Digg also points out that Thiel is close to Robert Mercer, the billionaire tech magnate who co-founded Cambridge Analytica with Steve Bannon, Trump’s former adviser. This is all a deeply tangled web — now it’s just a question of exactly how caught up in it Thiel and other major players truly are.