Cambridge Analytica did work for Brexit groups, says ex-staffer

The disgraced data analytics firm did work for the Leave side of the 2016 Brexit vote, according to emails.


Cambridge Analytica, the disgraced data analytics firm, conducted work for the Leave.EU campaign and the United Kingdom Independence Party ahead of the 2016 referendum on European Union membership, according to a former Cambridge Analytica official.

The revelation — outlined in internal emails between the data analytics firm and the political groups and submitted on Tuesday to the British parliament — contrasts with repeated denials by both Leave.EU and UKIP that they used Cambridge Analytica to target voters during the Brexit ballot.

Brittany Kaiser, the former head of business development at the firm, said that Leave.EU used datasets created by Cambridge Analytica to target voters with online political messages to potentially sway public opinion in 2016. The company has been at the center of a worldwide scandal about the illegal scraping of digital information from millions of Facebook users without their consent, and how this data was potentially then used for targeted political advertising.

“I have strong reasons to believe that those datasets and analyzed data processed by Cambridge Analytica as part of a Phase 1 payable work engagement … were later used by the Leave.EU campaign without Cambridge Analytica’s further assistance,” Kaiser wrote to Damian Collins, the head of the U.K. parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport committee, which has held a series of hearings into the matter over the past 18 months.

“The fact remains that chargeable work was done by Cambridge Analytica, at the direction of Leave.EU and UKIP executives, despite a contract never being signed,” she added, alongside a number of internal documents outlining the relationship between her former employer and the British political groups.

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This potential targeting of U.K. voters on social media ahead of the Brexit vote is part of a wider push by political groups across the Western world and beyond to use digital political campaigning to target people with increasingly sophisticated messages. It comes as lawmakers and policymakers are calling for greater oversight over how these groups use the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google amid concerns that there is a lack of control over how these digital political campaigns operate.