Why would anyone want to intern with a psychological warfare firm I ask him.
And he looks at me like I am mad.
‘It was like working for MI6.
Only it’s MI6 for hire.
It was very posh – very English – run by an old Etonian and you got to do some really cool things.
Fly all over the world.
You were working with the president of Kenya or Ghana or wherever.
It’s not like election campaigns in the west.
You got to do all sorts of crazy shit’.
On that day in June 2013 Sophie met up with SCL’s chief executive Alexander Nix and gave him the germ of an idea.
‘She said ‘You really need to get into data’.
She really drummed it home to Alexander.
And she suggested he meet this firm that belonged to someone she knew about through her father.
‘Who’s her father?’
Eric Schmidt – the chairman of Google?
And she suggested Alexander should meet this company called Palantir.”
I had been speaking to former employees of Cambridge Analytica for months and heard dozens of hair-raising stories but it was still a gobsmacking moment.
To anyone concerned about surveillance Palantir is practically now a trigger word.
The data-mining firm has contracts with governments all over the world – including GCHQ and the NSA.
It’s owned by Peter Thiel – the billionaire co-founder of eBay and PayPal – who became Silicon Valley’s first vocal supporter of Trump.
In some ways Eric Schmidt’s daughter showing up to make an introduction to Palantir is just another weird detail in the weirdest story I have ever researched.