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Reference no. 318-0275-1
Published by:
University of St Gallen (2018)
Revision date:
18 pages
Data source:
Published sources


This case documents the rise and fall of Cambridge Analytica, one of the most controversially and frequently discussed companies in the political space. It showcases how the ingredients for its considerable impact came together in the form of technological developments, the socio-political environment, and specific company assets, such as its proprietary dataset and micro-targeting method. It further outlines the backlash in public opinion that ultimately brought about the company's downfall. The case starts by outlining the company's background in SCL Group, a strategic communication company with close links to the British and US defense sector. It follows the development of Cambridge Analytica as the congregation of key players from SCL Group, the Republican Party establishment and eventual whistleblower Christopher Wylie as the 'idea man'. Considerable attention is given to describing how the company specifically created its 'secret sauce', how exactly the micro-targeting method worked and how the company managed to acquire its dataset. Its rise to prominence for high-profile right-wing causes is explained as a consequence of successful test runs in the 2014 US mid-term elections. The impact of Cambridge Analytica is described in terms of the two most controversial campaigns linked to the company with the BREXIT referendum and the 2016 US Presidential Election, as well as the other company activities. Finally, the company's downfall is followed chronologically through several damning newspaper articles, culminating in the public hearing of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in early April 2018.


Big data; Micro targeting; Cambridge Analytica; Facebook; Social media; Digitalization; Disruption; Analytics; Machine learning; AI; Artificial Intelligence; Digital marketing; Trump; Brexit; Innovation
Market: No notion/Corporation: circa 200 employees
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