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Cambridge Analytica's CEO is about to have a very bad day

The data firm is attempting to block a report that shows journalists posing as potential customers secretly recorded meetings with company executives, including the boss.

by David Gilbert
Mar 19 2018, 3:45pm

Getty Images

Cambridge Analytica boss Alexander Nix has been caught in a journalistic sting speaking on a hidden camera about his company's practices, according to Channel 4 News in the U.K.

Nix is currently at the center of a political storm over allegations the data company, founded by Steve Bannon and conservative megadonor Robert Mercer, harvested unauthorized information from 50 million Facebook users to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election.

The Channel 4 report, which Cambridge Analytica has attempted to block, shows reporters posing as potential customers secretly recording several meetings with company executives, including Nix, where he's openly discuss his company’s services.

The broadcaster began investigating Cambridge Analytica after whistleblower Christopher Wylie raised the alarm by sharing documents that detailed data misuse.

Channel 4 News would not comment on Cambridge Analytica’s attempt to block the story. The segment is set to air Monday at 7 p.m. (2 p.m. ET).

Attempts to contact Cambridge Analytica’s London offices Monday went unanswered.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica deny wrongdoing, but both face increasing pressure to explain why the information of so many people was harvested without consent.

Facebook Friday banned Cambridge from its platform, even though it knew about the issue more than two years ago. It has also banned Wylie from using Facebook as well as Instagram.

Lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic have hit out at Facebook in recent days.

Damian Collins, the chair of the U.K. Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, said he'd be contacting Nix and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week to answer questions on the matter.

“It is not acceptable that they have previously sent witnesses who seek to avoid answering difficult questions by claiming not to know the answers,” Collins said in a statement. “This also creates a false reassurance that Facebook’s stated policies are always robust and effectively policed.”

The EU said Monday that it would investigate whether the data of 50 million Facebook users was misused.

In Washington, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, called for Facebook to provide a full explanation while demanding that Cambridge Analytica be “thoroughly investigated.”

“The company has repeatedly touted its ability to influence voters through ‘psychographic’ targeting and has claimed it was the fundamental reason that Donald Trump won the 2016 election,” Schiff told the Guardian. “Indeed, it may be that through Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign made use of illegitimately acquired data on millions of Americans in order to help sway the election.”

Zuckerberg, who said at the beginning of the year that he was going to “fix” Facebook, is facing increasing pressure to speak publicly about the company’s shortcomings.

Shares in Facebook slid 4 percent in pre-market trading Monday.

Cover image: Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica, talks with Matthew Freud, Founder and Chairman of Freuds, on the final day of the Web Summit in Altice Arena on Nov. 9, 2017, in Lisbon, Portugal. (Horacio Villalobos - Corbis/Getty Images)