Cambridge Analytica suspends CEO after alarming reports on its election maneuvers

Cambridge Analytica, the British political research group linked to President Donald Trump’s campaign, suspended CEO Alexander Nix on Tuesday after British media revealed a series of alarming comments the company’s executives had made about techniques it used to sway international elections.

In an investigation by Britain’s Channel 4 News published Monday, Nix was recorded bragging that his company had managed to influence more than 200 elections around the world.

The Cambridge Analytica execs admitted in phone conversations with a Channel 4 reporter posing as a client that they manufactured damaging stories about opposing political candidates. Nix said his company is “used to operating through different vehicles, in the shadows.” He also bragged about sending Ukrainian sex workers to seduce the candidates, but Turnbull said the company wasn’t in the business of “entrapment” or “lying.”

11 PHOTOS
Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica CEO
See Gallery
Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica CEO
Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica arrives at the offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, gestures during the Web Summit, Europe's biggest tech conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 09: Alexander Nix, CEO, Cambridge Analytica, answers Matthew Freud, Founder and Chairman, Freuds, questions about 'From Mad Men to Math Men' during the final day of Web Summit in Altice Arena on November 09, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. Web Summit (originally Dublin Web Summit) is a technology conference held annually since 2009. The company was founded by Paddy Cosgrave, David Kelly and Daire Hickey. The topic of the conference is centered on internet technology and attendees range from Fortune 500 companies to smaller tech companies. This contains a mix of CEOs and founders of tech start ups together with a range of people from across the global technology industry, as well as related industries. This year's edition, starting on November 06, is the second to be held in Lisbon and will congregate almost 60,000 participants. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos - Corbis/Getty Images)
Chief Executive of Cambridge Analytica (CA)Alexander Nix, leaves the offices in central London, as the data watchdog is to apply for a warrant to search computers and servers used by CA amid concerns at Westminster about the firm's activities. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica arrives at the offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
CEOof Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, laughs during the Web Summit, Europe's biggest tech conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
HOLBORN, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 20: Chief executive of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix arrives at the office near Holborn on March 20, 2018 in Holborn, England. PHOTOGRAPH BY Matthew Chattle / Barcroft Images (Photo credit should read Matthew Chattle / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
New York, NY, Monday, October 24, 2016: Cambridge Analyticas CEO, Alexander Nix, at the company's office on 5th Avenue in the old Charles Cribner's Sons building, 10 blocks south of Trump Tower. Credit: Joshua Bright for The Washington Post via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix speaks at the 2016 Concordia Summit - Day 1 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix speaks at the 2016 Concordia Summit - Day 1 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)
New York, NY, Monday, October 24, 2016: Cambridge Analyticas CEO, Alexander Nix, at the company's office on 5th Avenue in the old Charles Cribner's Sons building, 10 blocks south of Trump Tower. Credit: Joshua Bright for The Washington Post via Getty Images
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

In a statement, the company said Nix’s suspension “reflects the seriousness with which we view” his comments.

Alexander Tayler, the company’s chief data officer, will step in for Nix while the company launches an investigation.

The company is currently under fire on both sides of the Atlantic for possibly misusing Facebook users’ personal data. 

Facebook acknowledged Friday in a statement that it had suspended Cambridge Analytica as it continued to investigate how the firm might have violated users’ privacy. The following morning, The New York Times and The Observer of London published a bombshell joint investigation into the group’s practices. The outlets alleged, through whistleblower Christopher Wylie ― who helped found Cambridge Analytica ― that the company harvested personal data from more than 50 million Facebook users for political purposes.

“They want to fight a culture war in America,” Wylie told the Times, referring to Cambridge Analytica’s leadership.

Trump’s campaign paid millions of dollars to Cambridge Analytica, which was founded by Trump donor Robert Mercer and once included Steve Bannon on its board. In a new Channel 4 report published Tuesday, executives told an undercover reporter that they “ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy” for Trump.

The company has also been linked to the Brexit vote in support of the “Leave” campaign.

Cambridge Analytica has denied any wrongdoing and says it presently conforms to all of Facebook’s privacy policies. Both U.S. and European officials, however, are demanding a full explanation. 

Facebook hired auditors to look into the scandal, but on Monday the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office announced it would instead conduct its own investigation. Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, said the European Union will also investigate potential privacy violations.

15 PHOTOS
Cambridge Analytica scandal
See Gallery
Cambridge Analytica scandal
A man fixes posters depicting Cambridge Analytica's CEO Alexander Nix behind bars, with the slogan 'Our Data Not His. Go Straight To Jail' to the entrance of the company's offices in central London on March 20, 2018. The European Parliament on Tuesday invited Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to speak following revelations that a firm working for Donald Trump's US presidential campaign harvested data on 50 million users. Facebook has faced worldwide criticism over the claims that Cambridge Analytica, the UK data analysis firm hired by Trump's 2016 campaign, harvested and misused data on 50 million members. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 20: In this photo illustration the logo of the strategic communication company 'Cambridge Analytica' is seen on the screen of an iPhone in front of a computer screen showing a Facebook logo on March 20, 2018 in Paris, France. Cambridge Analytica is accused of collecting the personal information of 50 million users of the Facebook social network without their consent and would have used it to develop software to predict and influence voter voting during the campaign American election according to the New York Times and the Guardian. Facebook share price fell by more than 5% Monday shortly after the opening of Wall Street. (Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 20: A protester called Heiko Khoo sticks posters of Alexander Nix behind bars onto the windows of the offices in a demonstration against Cambridge Analytica on March 20, 2018 in London, England. PHOTOGRAPH BY Matthew Chattle / Barcroft Images (Photo credit should read Matthew Chattle / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower who formerly worked with Cambridge Analytica, the consulting firm that is said to have harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users, speaks at the Frontline Club in London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
A man films Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower who formerly worked with Cambridge Analytica, the consulting firm that is said to have harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users, for a Facebook live cast as he speaks at the Frontline Club in London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower who formerly worked with Cambridge Analytica, the consulting firm that is said to have harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users, arrives at the Frontline Club in London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
A man wheels storage crates from the building that houses the offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
People walk past the building housing the offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
People walk past the building housing the offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica arrives at the offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
A man films Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower who formerly worked with Cambridge Analytica, the consulting firm that is said to have harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users, for a Facebook live cast as he speaks at the Frontline Club in London, Britain, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 19: Traders and financial professionals work ahead of the closing bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), March 19, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped over 330 points on Monday. Shares of Facebook dropped nearly 7 percent after news broke that analytics firm Cambridge Analytica was able to collect information on 50 million people's Facebook profiles without their consent. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 20: In this photo illustration the logo of the strategic communication company 'Cambridge Analytica' is seen on the screen of an iPhone on March 20, 2018 in Paris, France. Cambridge Analytica is accused of collecting the personal information of 50 million users of the Facebook social network without their consent and would have used it to develop software to predict and influence voter voting during the campaign American election according to the New York Times and the Guardian. Facebook share price fell by more than 5% Monday shortly after the opening of Wall Street. (Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 19: Traders and financial professionals work ahead of the closing bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), March 19, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped over 330 points on Monday. Shares of Facebook dropped nearly 7 percent after news broke that analytics firm Cambridge Analytica was able to collect information on 50 million people's Facebook profiles without their consent. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
HOLBORN, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 20: Chief executive of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix arrives at the office near Holborn on March 20, 2018 in Holborn, England. PHOTOGRAPH BY Matthew Chattle / Barcroft Images (Photo credit should read Matthew Chattle / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

In the U.S., a bipartisan group of lawmakers is petitioning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for a complete explanation and proposed solutions.

Cambridge Analytica managed to obtain information on so many Facebook users thanks to Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University academic. Kogan developed an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” that users voluntarily downloaded with the understanding their data would be used to help psychologists doing research. But the app also collected data from those users’ Facebook friends, who may not have known their information was being collected.

While the app conformed to Facebook’s privacy rules at the time, Kogan violated a rule by providing the data he harvested to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook shut down the app when it discovered the privacy violation, but failed to confirm at the time that Cambridge had deleted all of its ill-gotten data. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.