Croxon: Government needs to wake up to data misuse
Former Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Officer Alexander Nix said reports that he withdrew US$8 million from his now-defunct company are untrue, and that he lied to an undercover journalist because he believed it was what "the client wanted to hear."
He told a committee of British lawmakers investigating the impact of social media on recent elections Wednesday that he now has "no involvement" in Cambridge Analytica, which is moving through bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S., or associated companies that are under management of a court appointed administrator in the U.K.
The Financial Times reported Tuesday that investors who reportedly want to rebrand and relaunch Cambridge Analytica are in a dispute with Nix after he allegedly withdrew millions of dollars from the company shortly before it collapsed, citing people involved in the dispute.
"I saw that newspaper article," Nix told the British lawmakers. "The allegations made are false. Over the last three months, since this media storm erupted, I have personally invested millions of dollars to meet staff salaries, staff bonuses and staff redundancies."
Cambridge Analytica has been embroiled in scandal over its misuse of Facebook accounts, and in March suspended Nix after he was filmed bragging about political dirty tricks. The executive was heard telling an undercover reporter posing as a potential client that he could arrange for "Ukrainian girls" to be used as part of a political campaign.
"That was a lie to impress the people I was talking to," Nix told the U.K. committee. "We were just telling the client what we thought he wanted to hear, to find out exactly what his intentions were so we could move the conversation forward."
"We’ve never undertaken any work that involves a honey trap or the use of a sex scandal or anything like that for political leverage or work on a campaign," Nix said. "I can’t be any more blunt than that."
It’s not the first time the ousted executive has given evidence to lawmakers on the same subject of Cambridge Analytica. He first appeared in February, but was recalled by Damian Collins, chairman of the committee, to speak again to clarify "apparent inconsistencies" in his testimony.
Since the revelations in mid-March that Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct political ad consulting firm, got data on tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent, governments in the U.S., the U.K. and Europe have been grilling executives, industry insiders and whistle-blowers to understand exactly how much information the company collects on people and what they do with it.
Cambridge Analytica and Nix have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg answered questions during U.S. congressional hearings in April, but has so far refused to appear before U.K. lawmakers. He hasn’t made any new friends as a result. Whistle-blower Christopher Wylie has criticized the social-media boss for rejecting the invitation "from the one committee that will actually ask tough questions and won’t let him get away with ‘I’ll get back to you, I’ll get back to you, I’ll get back to you.’"
Cambridge Analytica announced in May it would be closing its doors and filing for bankruptcy, although speculation mounted that it would be revived under a new name. Nigel Oakes, the founder of Cambridge Analytica’s British affiliate, SCL Group, denied this.