Cambridge Analytica: Warrant sought to inspect company


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Alexander Nix is the CEO of Cambridge Analytica

The UK’s Information Commissioner says she will seek a warrant to look at the databases and servers used by British firm Cambridge Analytica.

The company is accused of using the personal data of 50 million Facebook members to influence the US presidential election in 2016.

Its executives have also been filmed by Channel 4 News suggesting it could use honey traps and potentially bribery to discredit politicians.

The company denies any wrongdoing.

Fresh allegations

On Monday, Channel 4 News broadcast hidden camera footage in which Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix appears to suggest tactics his company could use to discredit politicians online.

In the footage, asked what “deep digging” could be done, Mr Nix told an undercover reporter: “Oh, we do a lot more than that.”

He suggested one way to target an individual was to “offer them a deal that’s too good to be true and make sure that’s video recorded”.

He also said he could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house…” adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.

Mr Nix continued: “I’m just giving you examples of what can be done and what has been done.”

Channel 4 News said its reporter had posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get a political candidate elected in Sri Lanka.

However, Cambridge Analytica said the report had “grossly misrepresented” the conversations caught on camera.

“In playing along with this line of conversation, and partly to spare our ‘client’ from embarrassment, we entertained a series of ludicrous hypothetical scenarios,” the company said in a statement.

“Cambridge Analytica does not condone or engage in entrapment, bribes or so-called ‘honeytraps’,” it said.

Mr Nix told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that he regarded the report as a “misrepresentation of the facts” and said he felt the firm had been “deliberately entrapped”.

Investigation

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is already investigating Cambridge Analytica over claims it used the personal data of 50 million Facebook members to influence the US presidential election.

Christopher Wylie, who worked with the company, claimed it amassed the data of millions of people through a personality quiz on Facebook that was created by an academic.

Ms Denham had demanded access to Cambridge Analytica’s databases and servers by 18:00 GMT but said the firm had missed her deadline.

“I’m not accepting their response so therefore I’ll be applying to the court for a warrant,” she told Channel 4.

“We need to get in there, we need to look at the databases, we need to look at the servers and understand how data was processed or deleted by Cambridge Analytica.”

‘Violation’

Cambridge Analytica insists it followed the correct procedures in obtaining and using data, but it was suspended from Facebook last week.

Facebook, meanwhile, said it had hired its own digital forensic team to audit Cambridge Analytica.

“This is part of a comprehensive internal and external review that we are conducting to determine the accuracy of the claims that the Facebook data in question still exists,” the firm said.

“If this data still exists, it would be a grave violation of Facebook’s policies and an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments these groups made.”

Facebook added that Aleksandr Kogan, the creator of the personality app from which the data had been harvested, had also agreed to be audited.

However, it said Mr Wylie – who made the claims about the way the data was gathered and used – had declined.



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