Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Cambridge Analytica worked on Brexit campaign, documents claim

Emails published by a British parliamentary committee show now-defunct company analysed data of far-right party Ukip

Camrbidge Analytica whistleblower Brittany Kaiser is a central character in 'The Great Hack'. Netflix
Camrbidge Analytica whistleblower Brittany Kaiser is a central character in 'The Great Hack'. Netflix

Data collection company Cambridge Analytica worked on Nigel Farage’s pro-Brexit campaign in the lead-up to the 2016 EU referendum, documents released to British parliament on Tuesday revealed.

The company, which was founded by far-right figure and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, analysed the Ukip party's voter data, which it then gave to Leave.EU, the documents show.

Leave.EU is one of the key political campaign groups that supported the UK's withdrawal from the EU in the referendum.

The documents included internal emails between senior members of the far-right party and the two organisations.

They were given to the digital, culture, media and sport committee by Brittany Kaiser, former director of business development at Cambridge Analytica.

The documents show that chargeable work was done by the data company for Leave.EU and Ukip, without a signed contract.

Before Tuesday’s revelations, inquiries had not proven that work was done by the UK data company for the Brexit campaign.

Ms Kaiser told the committee that the amount owed for her company’s work was paid by Arron Banks – a prominent right-wing businessman, political donor and co-founder of Leave.EU – to Ukip directly.

"This payment was then not passed on to Cambridge Analytica for the work completed, as an internal decision in Ukip, as their party was not the beneficiary of the work but Leave.EU was,” Ms Kaiser wrote in a letter to Damian Collins, the committee chairman.

The emails she provided to the committee were sent between senior staff from the political party and the two organisations, including Ukip general secretary Matthew Richardson, Cambridge Analytica’s chief operating office Johnathan Wheatland, and Andy Wigmore, director of communications for Arron Banks’ Leave.EU campaign.

One email shows Cambridge Analytica staff discussing with Leave.EU staff whether or not to share the results of analysis on Ukip data.

“We have generated some interesting findings that we can share in the presentation but we are certain to be asked where the data came from. Can we declare that we have analysed Ukip membership and survey data?” Mr Wheatland asked Mr Wigmore and Mr Richardson, before he was advised not to.

In response to the release, Mr Collins said: “There are important questions to follow up, in particular whether the data sets created by Cambridge Analytica were used in the referendum or other campaigns, and if they were, whether or not it was a breach of data protection law for Ukip voter data to be used in this way.

"That certainly seems to be something that they themselves were concerned about.”

Cambridge Analytica also played a key role in the US Presidential election, where it worked on the campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to analyse social media data and target voters in swing states.

The Great Hack, a documentary that was released on Netflix on July 24, brought the Cambridge Analytica revelations back into the spotlight.

It revealed the extent to which the company mined personality data from social media to gauge voting intentions in the 2016 US Presidential Election and the Brexit referendum.

The documentary shows footage of Ms Kaiser being interviewed in an undisclosed location in Thailand, where she was in hiding.

After contributing to the investigation, she came out of hiding to become a public advocate for data rights and is running a campaign called #OwnYourData.

Updated: July 31, 2019 01:17 AM

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