Next Wednesday, Alexander Nix will finally appear in front of the DCMS select committee investigating fake news and its impact on our elections. The former Cambridge Analytica CEO has avoided answering publicly for the allegations against his now-defunct company — until now.
The Fair Vote Project has been instrumental in holding Cambridge Analytica and Mr Nix to account. In the wake of the data harvesting scandal, we are preparing a damages claim against Facebook to bring justice to the 1.1 million UK Facebook users affected. We are also calling for broader Electoral Commission reforms and a digital bill of rights to protect users against the predatory practices of companies like Cambridge Analytica who see us as no more than data sets to be manipulated.
Mr Nix’s appearance presents an extraordinary opportunity for the DCMS select committee to gain further insight into the ways in which Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections have been involved in misuse of data and election manipulating.
The Fair Vote Project has five main questions that should be asked:
- What is Emerdata and what is it’s purpose?
When Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections announced they were filing for bankruptcy and closing their doors, many were quick to point out that several high level executives and investors from CA and SCL had already formed a new company — Emerdata. Not much is known about this entity so it is vital that DCMS gets to the bottom of who they are and what they’re doing. Can we really allow this company to continue on with business as usual under a different name?
- What was the exact relationship between Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU?
The Electoral Commission has just released their findings on Leave.EU, fining them £70,000 and referring Chief Executive Liz Bilney to the Met police for criminal investigations. While the EC did not find evidence of collaboration between Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU, Mr Nix, Arron Banks, and Andy Wigmore have all spoken in the past about the work CA did for Leave.EU. We must understand exactly how CA was involved in Leave.EU’s work to determine how it may have influenced the turnout of the election.
- What type of data does Cambridge Analytica/SCL Elections hold on UK citizens and where is it held?
Nix and CA were proud to boast about the ‘5,000 data points’ they had about every US citizen during the 2016 presidential election. But they’ve never been forthcoming about what exactly these data points were or how they received this information. In light of the news of the harvested Facebook data, this boast is particularly troubling. CA and SCL Elections both had headquarters in London and have done work in the UK in the past. What kind of data did they have on UK citizens?
- Can hyper-specific data targeting really impact elections?
Up until recently, CA and Mr Nix especially have spoken at length about how influential CA’s unique brand of behavioural analysis and targeting can be on elections. However, in the aftermath of the data harvesting scandal, they’ve backtracked and insist that ultimately, candidates win elections, not data. Mr Nix must answer for how impactful this targeting may be, for the sake of our future democracy.
- Is CA cooperating fully with authorities in the UK as well as the US and other countries potentially affected to share materials and data vital to the investigations into CA’s role in using people’s data without permission?
When CA/SCL declared bankruptcy, many worried they would use this as an opportunity to destroy potential evidence. The DCMS select committee must ensure that Mr Nix and CA are willing to comply with the active investigations going on.