In 2018, Cambridge Analytica, the data mining and analytics company, dominated 
the news about political campaigning and data. But they are not alone in using 
personal data for political influence. Since we began actively documenting this 
industry, our global list has expanded to 329 organisations, and it is still 

We started our research by examining a few news articles that profiled data 
brokers and data analytics companies. From there, we began a series of in-depth 
investigations into the context of these companies – the work they do, their 
outreach and how they fit into a landscape of other organisations and actors. 
We reviewed the websites and promotional materials they produced, we conducted 
open-ended interviews with some of their staff members, and we attended 
industry events. Through this research, we mapped a digital campaigning 
industry whose breadth and depth far surpassed our expectations. This overview 
is the start of the a series in which we unpack our findings.

There are two features of these organisations that are important to their 
impact on democratic processes. Firstly, most of them are for-profit companies, 
with the primary aim of generating, maintaining and growing revenue, a business 
model that inevitably guides their decisions rather than traditional political 
metrics such as voter participation. Secondly, the organisations are, for the 
most part, hired for their expertise in data technologies rather than their 
knowledge or engagement in politics. Political campaigning is now often largely 
mediated by data-driven technology organisations.

This article is part of The Influence Industry, a series looking at the global 
business of using data in elections. 


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