Parent firm SCL had ‘routine access’ to secret government information and worked with the Ministry of Defence on psychological operations, say whistleblower papers
SCL Group, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, worked closely with the UK’s Ministry of Defence and had “routine access to UK secret information”, according to documents released by Parliament.
The documents, published by the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, were provided to it by Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower in a scandal involving Cambridge Analytica’s alleged use of the data of 50 million Facebook users to sway the 2016 US presidential election.
The papers give a broader picture of the tactics used by SCL and other companies affiliated with it to “manage” elections in countries around the world.
According to the documents, those tactics routinely involved misinformation with the aim of identifying and targeting “key groups within the population to effectively influence their behaviour to realise a desired outcome”, as it is phrased in a brochure included in the cache.
Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are both under fire for the alleged use of Facebook data in a campaign on behalf of Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential bid. The London-based firm was also allegedly involved in campaigning for the successful “Leave” party in the referendum on the UK’s exit from the EU.
The scandal is part of a broader controversy around firms’ access to and use of detailed personal information. Such activity is not moderated by any effective safeguards, Wylie has argued in the course of his disclosures, which included an appearance before the House of Commons committee on Monday.
The newly published papers include a letter referring to the provision of training by SCL Ltd. to a psychological operations group that operated under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence.
The letter, dated 11 January 2012, describes SCL’s speciality as “Strategic Communication and Influence”, and says that it has a history of “long-standing and proven operational success” in the area.
‘Routine access’ to state secrets
The firm is also a “UK List ‘X’ accredited company cleared to routine access of UK secret information”, the letter notes.
“There are very few, if any, other commercial organisations that can deliver proven training and education of this very specialist nature,” the letter says.
In another document describing its work on a Nigerian election, SCL Global says that it encouraged those opposed to its client “not to vote at all” through rallies involving local religious figures.
One brochure describes how in Trinidad and Tobago it used graffiti images to create the impression of a youth “movement” which supported specific campaign messages.
Other SCL-affiliated firms whose work the papers refer to include Global Science Research and Aggregate IQ.
Cambridge Analytica said it was investigating allegations of improper behaviour.
“We take allegations of unethical practices in the past by our former global (non-US) political consultancy very seriously, and they are currently the subject of a full and independent investigation which we have instigated to establish the facts,” the company said in a statement released on Tuesday. “Its findings will be made available in due course.”
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