The chief executive of Cambridge Analytica (CA), the controversial data analytics firm which worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, has denied his company helped the Leave.EU campaign, saying it had been the subject of politically motivated attacks.
Cambridge Analytica is at the centre of an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) into the use of personal data by political parties, along with other companies.
Speaking exclusively to Sky News, Alexander Nix said that laws around data sharing would need to be changed, to keep up with current practice. He also said that the Conservatives had run an “ill-prepared” and “absurd” digital campaign.
He said: “A lot of the media that has been attacking us is liberalish, which means that they’re pushing their own ideologies into print. Which is not very objective.”
Over a series of articles, the Observer alleged that Cambridge Analytica had worked with the Leave.EU campaign during the Brexit referendum last year, but Leave.EU had failed to declare their contribution.
Cambridge Analytica has taken legal action over those articles.
Mr Nix told Sky News: “We’ve really been quite consistent to explaining to your colleagues in the press over very many months that we didn’t work for any of the campaigns that were involved in Brexit.”
I asked Mr Nix about an article he wrote for Campaign magazine, in February 2015, in which he said CA had “supercharged” Leave.EU’s social media outreach.
“Yeah, look, that was an example of the cart pulling the horse, unfortunately.
“That was a press release written by a slightly over zealous PR adviser that was put out ahead of any work commencing with Leave.EU. At the moment that came to our attention, we were very quick to clarify that it was an error.”
An article on Leave.EU’s website, dated November 2015 but since removed, said that they “had hired the best people in the world” and that Cambridge Analytica “will be helping us map the British electorate and what they believe in”.
Mr Nix dismissed the article.
“This doesn’t say we worked with them. This document says that we might be working with them. And that was the case, we did have a number of discussions with them.
“We viewed different options with different campaigns about working on the referendum and we decided that we weren’t going to work on it and we didn’t work on it.”
In February 2016, Andy Wigmore, the communications director of Leave.EU, told the Observer that Cambridge Analytica had been “happy to help” Leave.EU.
Mr Nix told Sky News: “I think you’d have to speak to Andy about that. But I understand that since that interview, he’s changed his position and I believe there was some confusion about our company and another that he had been working with or talking about working with.”
Mr Wigmore told Sky News: “CA did zero paid work for us – it was a simple pitch process and set-up. If we won designation we would use them [CA]. It’s that simple. We did not win so did not use them.
“It’s true that we have strong relationships with many involved with CA and it’s true we were involved with many other campaign organisations involved with the Trump campaign which is how we were initially introduced to CA.”
Talking about the ICO investigation, Mr Nix told Sky News: “They clearly feel that they need educating at this point. This is a very fast moving space and I think it’s important that policy makers are up to speed with all the changes that are happening.
“I’ve no doubt that as technologies improve and data becomes increasingly available, that legislation will have to be adapted.”