Brittany Kaiser from Cambridge Analytica worked for Ukraine

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Brittany Kaiser burst into the limelight as a controversial Republican kingmaker – a young Chicagoan who, while leading the business development of Cambridge Analytica, helped gather data from tens of millions of Facebook users to lobby Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy in 2016.

Now Kaiser has taken on a radically different role: helping raise over $100 million in cryptocurrency for Ukraine’s war against Russia.

Her involvement was so critical to the country’s fight for democracy that Alex Bornyakov, Ukraine’s deputy minister for digital transformation, told the Post that his country’s war effort wouldn’t have been the same without her. . “Brittany have been a great friend – a great friend to me and to Ukraine,” he said in an interview, citing both Kaiser’s strategic game planning and his social media connections as the country was struggling against the bloody invasion. “We’re really happy to have him.”

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For many people familiar with Kaiser’s story, championing the cause of Ukraine may seem like an unexpected transformation. At Cambridge Analytica, Kaiser not only worked closely with Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, but also helped strengthen the firm’s relationship with Kremlin-linked Russian energy company Lukoil. But Kaiser says her new job fits a story of redemption that began when she began leaking damning information about her former employer after he came under fire in 2018.

News of Kaiser’s role in aiding Ukraine adds a new twist to a complex millennial character study (she’s now in her 30s) that combines cutting-edge digital tools with old-school political instincts . And it raises questions about how to deal with a world in which technology can so often blur ideology.

More than 100,000 people around the world have used crypto to donate to Ukraine’s war effort in some sort of local corollary to aid from foreign governments. Ukrainian officials estimate that at least $100 million entered its coffers, with tens of millions more going to NGOs such as Come Back Alive, which began benefiting pro-Ukrainian fighters in the east of the country. The funds allowed Ukraine to purchase everything from medical supplies to food to bulletproof vests.

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Kaiser landed in the middle of this story after a long odyssey.

During the 2016 presidential campaign season, Cambridge Analytica – with help from Facebook – improperly collected data on tens of millions of people so it could target “persuasive people” in swing states. with a deluge of advertisements. Many experts believe the scheme got Trump elected.

At the center of the effort was Kaiser, who in 2015 began working for defunct Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, SCL, securing many key partnerships. She gained notoriety when the scandal began to boil over in 2018, giving evidence to a parliamentary inquiry in the UK, releasing documents and positioning herself as a whistleblower. (Cambridge Analytica was also held back by the Brexit Leave movement that led to the UK’s exit from the European Union.)

His stardom received a boost from the 2019 Netflix documentary “The Great Hack,” in which Kaiser portrayed himself as some sort of charged hero seeking to atone for his privacy-invasive sins. Kaiser also released a whistleblower brief, “Targeted,” and launched an organization, Own Your Data, which advocates for citizens to recover their data from invasive exploiters.

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In recent years, Kaiser has also morphed into an advocate for crypto, the technology-based monetary system that some people believe can be a political force for democratization. Kaiser advised Wyoming lawmakers on a set of crypto-friendly laws and worked on the presidential campaign of Brock Pierce, the child actor turned crypto millionaire who made a statement in 2020. He is now running for the US Senate in as independent. in Vermont.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Kaiser jumped right into the fray. She negotiated with former global soccer star David Beckham to promote crypto donations on his social media accounts.

She lobbied for more cryptocurrencies to be accepted by the Ukrainian government (around 15 are now).

She also worked with Gavin Wood – the crypto-tech pioneer who helped found the ethereum blockchain – to facilitate his donation of millions in the Polkadot currency he created, and recruited other donors within the so-called “Polkadot community”. To do this, Kaiser used what amounts to both a side-channel charm offensive and rallying public tweets. thank).Wood did not respond to a request for comment.

Speaking recently by phone from Paris, where she met government leaders for crypto-based human rights efforts, Kaiser said she felt compelled to step up to the fight against the ‘Ukraine.

“They’re up and down in the bomb shelters, so I found it a lot easier to know what to tweet,” Kaiser said, letting out a characteristic big laugh.

She says the exact amount she was responsible for is difficult to determine. But she can do it. “It’s hard to tell in total – maybe a few hundred million dollars raised in the wallets?”

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Shortly after starting fundraising, Kaiser began traveling with high-ranking Ukrainian officials like Bornyakov and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov on their barnstorming tours around the world, even helping them convince May to visit a crypto pavilion she had previously set up. in Davos, his youthful energy matching the techie-ism can-do of the Ukrainian government. Her relationship with Bornyakov has grown so close, she said, that they text “basically every day.”

Bornyakov said that in addition to appealing to big donors, Kaiser helped set up “multisig” wallets – the advanced crypto storage application considered more secure because it requires validation from more than one user.

“It’s amazing what she does,” he said.

But not everyone accepts Kaiser’s redemption story, seeing it as a story of opportunism more than altruism.

“Brittany will do a lot of machiavellian things in her career and give the impression that she is selfless, when it all depends on who she works for,” said David Carroll, a digital rights activist who sued Cambridge Analytica and followed up close Kaiser’s work

He cited Cambridge Analytica’s alleged brutal tactics against Nigerian opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, among others, as evidence of his mercenary ways.

“With Brittany, the story she tells is never the whole story,” he added.

Kaiser disagrees with these criticisms. She sees a clear moral arc in her professional life, of which Cambridge Analytica was only an unfortunate deviation.

“At Cambridge, I didn’t realize that what I did most of the time had no ethical or moral compass,” she said. “But I’ve always been a very active human rights activist,” citing her work as a member of Barack Obama’s media team during his first presidential campaign. “And it’s the best cause you can find.”

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Kaiser is looking to turn even his tenure at Cambridge into a noble moment. On the CAA speakers’ website, which represents her, she identifies herself as a “Cambridge Analytica whistleblower.”

Others, however, have questioned this view. Former Cambridge employee Christopher Wylie slammed the whistleblower’s allegation in his memoir, saying Kaiser’s drive to spill the truth only came after she had little other choice.

And some “Targeted” critics observed a strange lack of penance. “Like Breaking Bad, in the end, you get the impression that she’s more concerned with her own legacy than considering any wrongdoing on her part,” NPR said in its review.

Some have also noted Kaiser’s involvement with polarizing actors, such as Kaiser’s alleged ties to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as chronicled extensively in a series of stories by the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr.

Kaiser’s latest trick will do little to deter some skeptics, given that the very value of a cryptocurrency hinges on what these critics say is finding a bigger fool to buy it. Kaiser’s actions go to the heart of crypto’s moral ambiguity, in which one person’s idealism is another person’s restlessness.

But it rejects these opponents of crypto with as much force as it dismisses its own.

“Crypto gives people access to services and funds they wouldn’t have had,” she said, citing bank freezes that would have made traditional currency transfers to Ukraine a lot more difficult.

“It is this global place that is more consensual and democratic. And that really matches what I believe.

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