Interview transcripts indicate Leave.EU benefited from Cambridge Analytica’s work, parliamentary committee says
The British parliament has published evidence that campaign group Leave.EU benefited from work by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, as probes of the company continue.
The London-based firm is accused of improperly obtaining the personal data of 87 million Facebook users to help influence the 2016 US presidential election.
But the UK Information Commissioner’s Office is also investigating its involvement in the 2016 referendum over Britain’s exit from the European Union, which resulted in success for “leave” campaigners.
In interview transcripts published on Monday, Nigel Oakes, founder of Cambridge Analytica parent SCL Group, said the consultancy was lined up to do work with Leave.EU in the event it was designated as the official “Leave” campaign.
‘No contract and no money’
“There was no contract and no money”, Oakes said, but the consultancy did do work to demonstrate its capabilities.
The methods it demonstrated were then copied by Leave.EU, according to campaign official Andy Wigmore in another interview transcript.
“Leave.EU benefited from their work with Cambridge Analytica before the decision was made on which Leave campaign would receive the official designation for the referendum,” said Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in a statement.
Oakes said Wigmore’s claim to have copied Cambridge Analytica’s methods raised questions about how Leave.EU had developed its database and whether the campaign had used consumer data from other companies it had a relationship with.
The transcripts were submitted to the committee by Emma Briant, an academic at the University of Sheffield who specialises in propaganda and censorship. She interviewed figures from SCL Group, Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU.
“Vote Leave” became the official leave campaign, beating out Leave.EU, but Leave.EU continued to campaign in the run-up to the referendum.
Collins said the “extreme messaging” on immigration during the campaign raised questions about how data was used to target and manipulate voters.
The concern is that data analytics may have been used “to target voters who were concerned about this issue, and to frighten them with messaging designed to create ‘an artificial enemy’ for them to act against,” Collins said.
Over the weekend the Observer newspaper said it had obtained an invoice indicating Cambridge Analytica carried out £41,500 of work for the pro-Leave political party Ukip.
The invoice, which Ukip said it did not pay, is for “analysis of Ukip membership and survey data and creative product development”. It is the first documentary evidence that the firm did carry out analytics work for one of the Leave campaigns in the period before the referendum.
Cambridge Analytica said in response that it had done “some preliminary analysis as part of a proposal to work with Ukip, but no contract was agreed, payment was not made to CA, and the preliminary work was not delivered to Ukip”.
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