Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cambridge Analytica Bragged: We Have Vast Data for Brexit Vote; EXCLUSIVEWe Can Pick out Potential Leave Supporters by Identifying Their Personality Traits Said Data firmMPs Call for Probe into 'Dark Arts Dabbling' amid Fears over Harvesting of Private Details

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cambridge Analytica Bragged: We Have Vast Data for Brexit Vote; EXCLUSIVEWe Can Pick out Potential Leave Supporters by Identifying Their Personality Traits Said Data firmMPs Call for Probe into 'Dark Arts Dabbling' amid Fears over Harvesting of Private Details

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

THE company at the heart of the Facebook scandal boasted of having "vast amounts of data" that could sway the 2016 referendum on membership of the European Union. A 10-page document written by Cambridge Analytica, headed "Big Data Solutions for the EU Referendum", claimed it could single out Brexiteers among voters, donors, politicians and even journalists.

MPs today called for a wider investigation into the firm, which has been accused of obtaining 50 million people's private details harvested from Facebook, amid questions over the role it may have played in the referendum. The vote was won by Leave by a four-point margin. Cambridge Analytica has denied wrongdoing.

The document was made for Leave.EU, one of the two main Brexit campaign groups, in a pitch for business. It bragged: "We use vast amounts of data, including consumer histories, lifestyle information ... and "state-of-the-art psychological analysis." Cambridge Analytica said Continued on Page 6 Continued from Page 1 it could pick out likely Leave supporters by identifying their "top-line issues" and "voters' personality traits" using its own data. It said Leave.EU would have to pass over its own Facebook data to get the full benefit.

Explaining the power of its analysis, Cambridge Analytica (CA) said: "Voters and businesses alike see the coming referendum as an opportunity to voice their concerns over issues caused by Britain's membership of the EU. Whether it is regulation, border controls or Britain's international profile, British people have real worries."

Dominic Grieve, the Tory ex-attorney general, said there was a case for a wideranging investigation into CA's activities. "The more one hears about this case, the more public disquiet there must be about these allegations," he told the Standard. "They need to be seriously investigated."

Three official investigations involving Cambridge Analytica (CA) are under way. The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, is seeking a warrant to see if its computers contain data that was allegedly obtained without proper consent. This follows the 2014 Facebook incident, when people were paid to take a personality test which unlocked their own details and those of their friends.

In addition, the Electoral Commission is probing whether Leave.EU correctly declared that it received no services, paid or unpaid, from CA. Meanwhile, the House of Commons culture committee, chaired by Damian Collins, has recalled CA's suspended chief executive, Alexander Nix, for an inquiry into fake news. CA's 2015 document, written a year after the Facebook data harvesting, was placed on the committee's page of the Parliament website as part of its evidence-gathering.

Contradictory statements appear to have been made by CA and senior figures in Leave.EU about whether or not the pitch was accepted. Mr Nix was quoted in 2016 in Campaign magazine saying: "We have already helped supercharge Leave.EU's social media campaign."

However, in evidence to the select committee, he assured Mr Collins: "We did not work with them." Mr Nix, an Old Etonian, was suspended by CA on Wednesday after he was secretly recorded by Channel 4 allegedly discussing potential bribery and entrapment. He denies any wrongdoing. The founder of Leave.EU, Arron Banks, referred in his book The Bad Boys Of Brexit to CA being "hired" in October 2015. But he told the committee this simply referred to an early meeting and an intention to work together if Leave.EU won lead status, entitling it to spend up to PS7 million, get a free mailshot, TV broadcasts and PS600,000 public funds, in the referendum campaign. He insisted the group "devised and implemented its own social media strategy ... without any input from Cambridge Analytica". …

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