Alexander Nix, the CEO of the London-based voter profiling company Cambridge Analytica — which harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users without their permission to analyze their voter behavior — has been suspended from his job. In an announcement posted to the company’s site, the board said the suspension was effective immediately.
Nix’s suspension ties directly to footage that was filmed over the last year by Britain’s Channel 4 News and which surfaced yesterday. The video comes on the heels of investigative reporting by The Guardian, The Observer and The New York Times that has shown how the company used data to target groups and design messages that appealed to their interests.
In one minute-long clip, Nix boasts of entrapping politicians to meet its clients’ needs. Nix can be overheard saying in one recording, “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.”
It gets worse, as anyone who read about Nix in The Guardian yesterday can attest.
From its report:
When the reporter asked if Cambridge Analytica could offer investigations into the damaging secrets of rivals, Nix said it worked with former spies from Britain and Israel to look for political dirt. He also volunteered that his team were ready to go further than an investigation.
“Oh, we do a lot more than that,” he said over dinner at an exclusive hotel in London. “Deep digging is interesting, but you know equally effective can be just to go and speak to the incumbents and to offer them a deal that’s too good to be true and make sure that that’s video recorded.
“You know these sort of tactics are very effective, instantly having video evidence of corruption.”
Nix suggested one possible scenario, in which the managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, Mark Turnbull, would pose as a wealthy developer looking to exchange campaign finance for land. “I’m a master of disguise,” Turnbull said.
Another option, Nix suggested, would be to create a sex scandal. “Send some girls around to the candidate’s house, we have lots of history of things,” he told the reporter. “We could bring some Ukrainians in on holiday with us, you know what I’m saying.”
Today, the company’s board cited those comments, saying that they “do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view the violation.”
Cambridge Analytica did not respond directly to our requests for more information.
The data firm was reportedly embedded with the Trump campaign beginning in 2016.
Talking to the trade magazine Ad Age at the time, a consultant who had worked with Cambridge Analytica noted that no one in Washington took the firm terribly seriously, either. “Everyone universally agrees that [Cambridge’s] sales operation is better than their fulfillment product . . . The product comes late or it’s not quite what you envisioned.”
“What’s the old saying?” asked another source in the same article. “All hat, no cattle?”
According to The Guardian, Nix, 42, studied the history of art at Manchester University and worked as a financial analyst in Mexico and the U.K. before joining SCL, a strategic communications firm that is parent to Cambridge Analytica.
Nix later set up Cambridge Analytica with the help of Robert Mercer, a billionaire patron of right-wing outlets like Breitbart News. Steve Bannon, the former executive director of Breitbart who served as Trump’s chief strategist until last August, was formerly a vice president with the outfit. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, sits on its board.