Whistleblower: Cambridge Analytica used fashion brands to identify right-wing voters

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie said the firm targeted social media users with pro-Trump messaging if they indicated interest in certain fashion brands, including L.L. Bean and Wrangler.

Wylie, speaking at England's Business of Fashion conference, said the firm found that some fashion tastes indicate "populist political" leanings. 

“Fashion data was used to build AI models to help [former White House chief strategist] Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonChris Christie claims Jared Kushner enacted 'hit job' as revenge for prosecuting father On immigration - Congress should not pay the hostage taker Schiff says Kushner, Bannon invoked ‘bogus privileges’ in testimonies before Congress MORE build his insurgency and build the alt-right,” said Wylie.

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Wylie, who helped found Cambridge Analytica, has been speaking out since revealing earlier this year that as many as 87 million people may have had their data harvested by the voter-profiling firm without their consent. 

The Cambridge Analytica controversy sparked an international reckoning over the role social media giants play in protecting their users' data. 

The scandal was particularly hard for Facebook, leading CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergThe free-market case for a clean slate Facebook takes down anti-NATO pages linked to Russia Congress needs to address consumer data privacy in a responsible and modern manner MORE to testify before Congress in April. 

“How [people] engaged with certain brands was put into a funnel and helped build the algorithms,” Wylie said at the conference. “Fashion brands are really useful in producing algorithms to find out how people think and how they feel." 

Different people choose different clothes and it correlates with their politics," he said.

Cambridge Analytica was shuttered earlier this year after intense media scrutiny. Its system targeted voters with certain messages according to their personal data.

Wylie said Cambridge Analytica targeted users with pro-Trump advertisements if they indicated interest in brands linked to low levels of openness and high levels of mistrust. He named Hollister and Lee Jeans as two examples.

He also said the firm was aware of the "aesthetic" honed by members of the alt-right.

"When we think about fascist movements, the first thing they do is develop an aesthetic,” he said, pointing to the chinos and white polo shirts worn by white supremacists during the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year.

Wylie has also previously claimed that Cambridge Analytica sought to suppress black voters.