Whistle-Blower Says Brexit Vote Could Have Gone Other Way
(Bloomberg) -- Whistle-blower Christopher Wylie told lawmakers that the Brexit referendum could have gone the other way if rules hadn’t been broken during the campaign.
According to earlier news reports, Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan created a personality-analysis app that was used by 270,000 Facebook users, who in turn gave the app permission to access data on themselves and their friends, ultimately exposing a network of 50 million people.
Wylie also contradicted comments that Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Alexander Nix made to the committee.
"I think Nix’s comments to your committee were misleading and dishonest," Wylie said. "It is categorically untrue that Cambridge Analytica has never used Facebook data. Facebook data and the acquisition using Aleksandr Kogan’s app was the foundational data set of the company. That’s how the algorithms were developed."
Cambridge Analytica immediately denied the claims on Twitter. "No company would risk basing their core offering on illegal data," it wrote. "We engaged Dr. Kogan in good faith, and deleted his company’s data once we knew we had to. We’ve already certified this to Facebook."
The firm also disputed the details of Wylie’s account in a statement on its website later Tuesday.
"Chris Wylie has misrepresented himself and the company to the committee," Cambridge Analytica said, calling his statements "false information, speculation, and completely unfounded conspiracy theories." The firm said it doesn’t hold any of Kogan’s data and has never shared it with any entity.
Cambridge Analytica has been under pressure since the revelations that it held vast swathes of Facebook user data after obtaining it from Kogan, who had shared the data without the social network’s permission.
Kogan has previously said he was being used "as a scapegoat" in the scandal, and that he believed he was handling the data he acquired "appropriately."
Wylie said he had passed evidence to the committee about the firm’s involvement with Canadian company Aggregate IQ Data Services, which he had previously claimed was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by Cambridge Analytica as part of its work for a lobby group during the 2016 referendum.
Cambridge also denied it worked with Aggregate IQ on the Brexit campaign.
"The suggestion that Cambridge Analytica was somehow involved in any work done by Aggregate IQ in the 2016 EU referendum is entirely false," according to the firm’s statement. "We played no role in the U.K. referendum on EU membership."
Damian Collins, head of the government body questioning Wylie, said it will publish its findings from Wednesday.
Separately, Facebook said Tuesday that Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg would not appear before the same lawmakers to give evidence. Collins had invited Zuckerberg to personally answer for a “catastrophic failure of process.” He is expected to testify before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, a congressional official familiar with the plans said on Tuesday.
Zuckerberg last week apologized for the Facebook’s failure to protect its users. The company reinforced this message by taking out full-page ads in British and U.S. newspapers.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.