Tories turned down Cambridge Analytica

Written By: Ian Hernon
Published: March 22, 2018 Last modified: March 22, 2018

The Conservative Party turned down an approach from Cambridge Analytica, the firm accused of illegally harvesting personal data to win elections both sides of the Atlantic.

As the growing scandal about the alleged activities of the political consultancy almost eclipsed the row over the Russian nerve agent attack, premier Theresa May said that Facebook and all organisations involved to “comply fully” with an investigation by the UK’s data watchdog.

May’s Downing Street spokesperson admitted: “An approach was made and the party decided not to take that forward.,” That “approach” was first made during David Cameron’s tenure in Number 10 .

Facebook is under pressure after Cambridge Analytica was accused of illegally harvesting the personal data of 50 million of the social media site’s users.

This has been followed by the publication of undercover footage revealing Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive Alexander Nix boasting of tactics such as posing as wealthy businessmen to offer money to election candidates, or sending “very beautiful” Ukrainian girls to a politician’s house.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford claimed Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL), the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, has been “run by a chairman of Oxford Conservative Association, its founding chairman was a former Conservative MP, a director appears to have donated over £700,000 to the Tory party, a former Conservative Party treasurer is a shareholder. We know about the links to the Conservative Party, they go on and on.”

Cambridge Analytica, which operates in the UK and is registered in the US, describes itself as a consultancy that “uses data to change audience behaviour” and worked with Donald Trump’s successful US presidential election campaign

Tory MP Damian Collins, the chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, has written to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to formally request he appear before them in an oral evidence session, over the claims Cambridge Analytica used millions of Facebook profiles without authorisation to predict and influence the US election.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed it held a contract with SCL Group in 2014/15, but there was no recorded data breach during the period of time the contract was held and robust information security measures were in place.

About Ian Hernon

Ian Hernon is Deputy Editor of Tribune