Cambridge Analytica’s Nix locks horns with MPs over pre-Brexit vote access to UK voters’ data

Cambridge Analytica’s Nix locks horns with MPs over pre-Brexit vote access to UK voters’ data
Former Cambridge Analytica (CA) chief executive Alexander Nix claims the scandal-hit company did not access AIQ’s data containing personal information on Brits in the lead up to the EU referendum.

In an often brutal session of questioning by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS), Nix struggled to maintain his composure, engaging in heated exchanges with MPs.

Labour MP Julie Elliott asked Nix if he wanted to reconsider the answer he gave during his first round of questioning; that Cambridge Analytica has no links to Aggregate IQ, a Canadian agency known to have been involved in the EU referendum.

Nix claimed that the original question must have been lost in translation, or more pertinently a mix-up in the timing of that relationship with AIQ. He said CA does not work with AIQ, but did once, to build a digital platform called Ripon.

“We used AIQ as an independent company of software engineers to help us build a voter engagement platform [Ripon],” he told MPs.

“The vast majority of data that was used in this platform was a combination of voter registration data… and consumer and lifestyle data,” Nix added.

In a bizarre exchange, Labour’s Paul Farrelly asked Nix about CA’s relationship with UKIP. Here is the tense exchange between the pair:

Farrelly: “Do you know what use was made of the work you did for UKIP?”
Nix: “We never handed over any work to UKIP.”
Farrelly: “Do you know what use was made of the work you did for UKIP?”
Nix: “…no?”
Farrelly: “Do you know what use was made of the work you did for UKIP?”
Nix: “I’m afraid I don’t understand the question.”

During the hearing, Nix condemned Channel 4 News, which he said engaged in “dark arts” when their reporter secretly filmed Nix and Mark Turnball, a CA managing director. The news organization quickly released a response to Nix in which they denied his accusation of ‘entrapment.’

Nix then went on to insist that his company did not breach any personal data laws, saying: “Just because we work on their data, does not mean that we have a right to that data. And that was the relationship with AIQ.”

It follows a story in today’s Financial Times, reporting that Nix allegedly withdrew $8 million from the company prior to the corporation folding, according to the firm's investors.

Those close to the inner workings of CA claim that the withdrawal of huge finances came quickly after Nix learned about allegations of his company’s role in a seismic leak of Facebook user data in March 2018, which was reported in the British media.

Commenting today at a second round of questions for the DCMS inquiry into “fake news,” Nix told the assembled MPs that the FT’s story on his alleged withdrawal of $8 million from CA was false.

“The allegation is false, the facts are not correct,” Nix said. He went on to add that he had personally paid money into the company to ensure staff continued to be paid their salaries.

However, according to several company insiders, employees have been dismissed without severance payments after the collapse of CA last month, the FT reports. Despite this, it’s been reported that investors and employees have maintained that staff should receive redundancy payments.

Labour’s Farrelly pushed Nix on the issue of paying his own money into the company, asking him if he had received any of that money back. Nix replied: “I did not… at that time, none of us envisaged that this outcome would happen.”

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