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.
The Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham criticised Cambridge Analytica for being “unco-operative” with her investigation as she confirmed that her watchdog would apply for a warrant to help her examine the firm’s activities.
Cambridge Analytica has sold itself as the ultimate hi-tech consultant, winning votes by using data to pinpoint target groups and design messages that will appeal powerfully to their interests, although it denies using Facebook information in its work.
But in the undercover investigation by Channel 4 News, in association with the Observer, executives claimed to offer a much darker range of services.