On Netflix’s new documentary The Great Hack, we learn a lot about Cambridge Analytica (CA) and its ability to manipulate election outcomes through social media data acquisition. During the documentary, we also learn that Cambridge Analytica is connected to the SCL Group and Emerdata. What are these organizations? Read on to learn more.
Emerdata Is the Holding Company for Cambridge Analytica
Things can get a little confusing when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of Cambridge Analytica. The company is connected to a large number of subsidiaries and holding companies. According to court documents from Professor David Carroll’s case against Cambridge Analytica that were filed in April 2019, Emerdata was the ultimate holding company for Cambridge Analytica.
According to court documents filed in April 2019, Emerdata’s majority shareholder was Cambridge Analytica Holdings LLC. As of April 2019, Wheatland was the sole director according to court documents (but it’s not clear if the documents are referring to Emerdata or Cambridge Analytica.) He later resigned from his position at Emerdata because the company was no longer active, he told FastCompany.
Emerdata has been paying SCL’s bills through its investigations and bankruptcy proceedings, FastCompany reported. The July report also noted that Emerdata purchased 100 percent of SCL Group’s share capital and had 89.5 percent ownership of Cambridge Analytica.
A bankruptcy petition for May 2018 noted that Cambridge Analytica LLC had also operated as Cambridge Analytica Commercial, Cambridge Analytica Political, and Anaxi Solutions. On the bankruptcy petition, Rebekah Mercer and Jennifer Mercer are listed as being the governing board of Cambridge Analytica. Their father is Robert Mercer, a billionaire who has donated to President Donald Trump’s campaign along with many other Republican campaigns.
Cambridge Analytica & Emerdata Have Subsidiaries with ‘SCL’ in Their Names
Numerous subsidiaries associated with CA and Emerdata have “SCL” in their name, according to the April 2019 court document. One of Emerdata’s subsidiaries is SCL Group Ltd., a non-trading holding company that has one subsidiary of its own: SCL Analytics Ltd., according to court documents. This is also a non-trading company that once had minority interest in SCL Insight Limited.
April 2019 court documents note that SCL Analytics’ trading subsidiaries are:
- SCL Commercial Limited: This company provided data analysis to commercial customers, court documents noted.
- SCL Social Limited: This company provides campaign management and communications services for political customers, court documents noted.
- SCL Elections Limited: This is the main trading company that had 61 employees and was ultimately fined for not turning over David Carroll’s data.
Meanwhile, SCL Elections Limited had its own dormant subsidiary, called Cambridge Analytica (UK) Ltd., according to court documents. Carroll’s original suit named SCL Group, SCL Analytics, SCL Elections, and Cambridge UK as defendants.
SCL Analytics Limited went into bankruptcy and appointed a liquidator and was ordered in June to wind up. The same has happened with SCL Social Limited, SCL Elections Limited, SCL Group Limited, and SCL Commercial Limited
It All Started Out with a Military Contractor Called SCL Defense
In the documentary, we learn that in the beginning, SCL started as a military contractor called SCL Defense. It worked in Afghanistan, Iraq, Eastern Europe, and other places. The company then started using their information warfare tactics in elections. A sales video for CA, shown in the documentary, notes that “it’s all the same methodology.”
Interestingly, a Buzzfeed News article from 2017 noted that SCL Group, which has worked for the Department of Defense in the past, had a meeting with DoD staff at the Pentagon that March. They also noted that SCL Group was trying to get new U.S. government contracts and they had recently won a contract with a branch of the State Department called the Global Engagement Center.
SCL stood for Strategic Communication Laboratories, according to a 2005 article in The Guardian. Strategic Communications Laboratories was a political communications consultancy, The Guardian noted. In 2005 it relaunched as a psyops operator with 20 full-time staff in order to use psyops to shorten conflicts. Nigel Oakes was chief executive at the time of launch and said: “We used to be in the business of mindbending for political purposes, but now we are in the business of saving lives.”
Nigel Oakes originally founded a company called Behavioural Dynamics Institute in 1990. BDI eventually became a nonprofit affiliate of SCL. An article by The Register noted that SCL worked with 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group, providing training. It was listed as a “UK List X” company, which means it was cleared to have access to secret information, The Register noted.