Christopher Wylie—the twenty-eight-year-old whistle-blower who has detailed how Cambridge Analytica, the controversial political-consulting firm, harvested personal data from as many as fifty million Facebook users—appeared before a committee of British M.P.s on Tuesday. During Wylie’s almost four hours of testimony, he rejected the various dodges, equivocations, and denials that his former employer has made about its use of Facebook data. “It is categorically untrue, categorically untrue, that Cambridge Analytica has never used Facebook data,” Wylie said. “Facebook’s data, and the acquisition using Aleksandr Kogan’s app, was the foundational data of the company. That is how the algorithms were developed. They spent a million dollars, at least, on that acquisition project.”
Wylie also said that he had provided the committee with physical evidence to back up his claims: a copy of a contract signed by Kogan, a Cambridge University researcher, and Alexander Nix, the chief executive of C.A. The contract “references using an app that harvests Facebook data and friend network data also,” Wylie said. One of the M.P.s suggested that Nix, who appeared before the committee in February, had “been leading us up the garden path.” To which Wylie responded, “I think Alexander Nix’s responses to your committee were exceptionally misleading. And frankly, I would say not only misleading, I would say they were dishonest.”
Facebook has been at the center of this scandal, and the company saw its stock price fall another five per cent on Tuesday. But in Britain, the biggest news from Wylie’s testimony was his sensational assertion that the outcome of the Brexit vote, in June of 2016, may well have been different if not for “cheating” that involved a Canadian data firm closely tied to C.A. Wylie didn’t provide any new voting analysis to back up his claim, but opponents of Brexit quickly seized on it.