Trump-tied agency’s CEO claims affect on US polls, FB quizzed

LONDON/ SAN FRANCISCO: The suspended chief executive of Cambridge Analytica said in a secretly recorded video broadcast on Tuesday that his UK-based political consultancy’s online campaign played a decisive role in US President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory.

CEO Alexander Nix’s comments, which could not be verified, are potentially a further problem for as it faces lawmakers’ scrutiny in the US and Europe over Cambridge Analytica’s improper use of 50 million Facebook users’ personal data to target voters.

The social media network’s shares fell for a second day, closing down 2.5%, as investors worried that its dealings with Cambridge Analytica might damage its reputation, deter advertisers and invite restrictive regulation. The company has lost $60 billion of its stock market value over the last two days.

Cambridge Analytica’s board of directors suspended Nix on Tuesday, shortly before the second part of British broadcaster Channel 4’s expose of the firm’s methods. In the programme Nix describes questionable practices used to influence foreign elections and said his firm did all the research, analytics and targeting of voters for Trump’s digital and TV campaigns. He also boasts he met Trump when he was the Republican presidential candidate “many times”.

Nix’s comments “do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation,” Cambridge Analytica said in a statement on Tuesday. Cambridge Analytica has denied all the media claims and said it deleted the data after learning the information did not adhere to data protection rules.

Brad Parscale, the 2016 Trump campaign’s main digital adviser who dealt regularly with Cambridge Analytica, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Nix’s claims.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and now senior adviser, oversaw the Trump campaign’s digital operations. One former Trump adviser said brought Cambridge Analytica into the 2016 campaign effort. Kushner’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie told the Washington Post on Tuesday that in 2014 conservative strategist Steve Bannon, who would go on to be Trump’s White House adviser, oversaw the firm’s early efforts to collect Facebook data to build detailed profiles on millions of American voters. Bannon approved spending nearly $1 million to acquire data, including Facebook profiles, in 2014, Wylie told the Post. It is unclear whether Bannon knew how Cambridge Analytica was obtaining the Facebook data, the Post reported. Bannon, who served on Cambridge Analytica’s board, did not respond to a request for comment.

US and European lawmakers have demanded an explanation of how Cambridge Analytica gained access to user data in 2014 and why Facebook failed to inform its users, raising broader industry questions about consumer privacy. Facebook said it had been told by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the leading US consumer regulator, that it would receive a letter this week with questions about the data acquired by Cambridge Analytica. It said it had no indication of a formal investigation. “The entire company is outraged we were deceived,” Facebook said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens.”

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