Cambridge Analytica suspends CEO amid Facebook data scandal

Alexander Nix boasted about the firm's pivotal role in securing Donald Trump's election victory

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 20 March 2018 20:13 GMT
Cambridge Analytica: Chris Wylie tells Channel 4 News data for 50 million Facebook profiles was obtained

Cambridge Analytica has suspended its chief executive amid claims the firm harvested personal data from up to 50 million Facebook users.

It comes after secret recordings captured Alexander Nix boasting about the company’s pivotal role in securing Donald Trump‘s election victory.

In the recordings, Mr Nix claims his firm ran “all” the elements of the Trump campaign. He says: ”We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.”

Alexander Nix left the Cambridge Analytica building at 6.30pm through a fire exit door (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
Alexander Nix left the Cambridge Analytica building at 6.30pm through a fire exit door (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire) (PA)

In a statement, the board of Cambridge Analytica said Mr Nix had been suspended "with immediate effect, pending a full, independent investigation".

It said comments by Mr Nix recorded in secret filming by Channel 4 News and "other allegations" did not represent "the values or operations of the firm" and that his suspension "reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation".

Mr Nix left the Cambridge Analytica building through a fire exit door at 6.30pm on Monday.

In the footage, broadcast on Tuesday night in the third part of Channel 4's investigation into the company, Mr Nix reveals how his team used a self-destructing email system which leaves no trace.

He was recorded saying: "No-one knows we have it, and secondly we set our... emails with a self-destruct timer... So you send them and after they've been read, two hours later, they disappear.

"There's no evidence, there's no paper trail, there's nothing."

Mr Nix was also recorded explaining how Cambridge Analytica sets up proxy organisations to feed untraceable messages on to social media.

The Channel 4 programme said Mr Nix made the comments to a reporter posing as a wealthy potential client seeking to use Cambridge Analytica to influence campaigns in Sri Lanka.

The firm is being investigated by British officials for its handling of Facebook users' personal data.

It has been accused of improperly using information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts. It denies wrongdoing.

Earlier, the parliamentary committee investigating fake news announced that it was summoning Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence, accusing the company of giving "misleading" answers at a previous hearing on the issue.

In its statement, the CA board said chief data officer Alexander Tayler had been appointed acting chief executive while an investigation was carried out by Julian Malins QC whose findings they would "share publicly in due course".

"In the view of the board, Mr Nix's recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation," it said.

"The board will be monitoring the situation closely, working closely with Dr Tayler, to ensure that Cambridge Analytica, in all of its operations, represents the firm's values and delivers the highest-quality service to its clients."

On Monday, Mr Nix told BBC's Newsnight the firm had been the victim of a "co-ordinated attack by the media" because of its involvement in Donald Trump's presidential election campaign.

He said he had spoken with "a certain amount of hyperbole" in his conversation with the undercover reporter.

He added: "I have some regrets about the way that I have represented what the company does.

"I certainly feel that the air of mystery and negativity that surrounds the work of Cambridge is misfounded and, as the CEO, I take responsibility for that."

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