Cambridge Analytica, the company at the centre of the Facebook data breach boasted of using honey traps, fake news campaigns and operations with ex-spies to swing election campaigns around the world, a new investigation reveals.
Executives from Cambridge Analytica spoke to undercover reporters from Channel 4 News about the dark arts used by the company to help clients, which included entrapping rival candidates in fake bribery stings and hiring prostitutes to seduce them.
In one exchange, the company chief executive, Alexander Nix, is recorded telling reporters: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.”
The Channel 4 News investigation, broadcast on Monday, comes two days after the Observer reported Cambridge Analytica had unauthorised access to tens of millions of Facebook profiles in one of the social media company’s biggest data breaches.
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica (the analytics company that worked with Donald Trump’s election team), have come under mounting pressure, with calls for investigations and hearings to explain a vast data breach that affected tens of millions of people.
In Britain, the head of the parliamentary committee investigating fake news accused Cambridge Analytica and Facebook of misleading MPs after revelations in the Observer that more than 50m Facebook profiles were harvested and used to build a system that may have influenced voters in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Conservative MP Damian Collins said he would call the heads of both companies, Alexander Nix and Mark Zuckerberg, to give further testimony.
His intervention came after a whistleblower spoke to the Observer and described how the profiles, mostly of US voters, were harvested for Cambridge Analytica, in one of Facebook’s biggest ever data breaches.
The disclosures caused outrage on both sides of the Atlantic; in the US, a state attorney general has called for investigations and greater accountability and regulation.
Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.
Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach.
“My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg keeps silent as the data harvesting scandal unfolds.
TYT Newsroom with information from The Guardian
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