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Cambridge Analytica suspends CEO Alexander Nix

Man at centre of allegations about Facebook data breach is suspended pending full independent investigation

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica CEO, suspended after data scandal” was written by Ruth McKee, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 20th March 2018 21.51 UTC

Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the heart of the data-mining scandal, has been suspended.

The company said in a statement: “The board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect pending a full, independent investigation.

“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.”

Name

Alexander James Ashburner Nix

Age

42

Education

Eton, then Manchester University, where he studied history of art

Career

Nix worked as a financial analyst in Mexico and the UK before joining SCL, a strategic communications firm, in 2003. From 2007 he took over the company’s elections division, and claims to have worked on more than 40 campaigns globally. Many of SCL’s projects are secret, so that may be a low estimate. He set up Cambridge Analytica to work in America, with investment from US hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. He has been both hailed as a visionary – featuring on Wired’s list of “25 Geniuses who are creating the future of business” – and derided as a snake oil salesman.

Controversies

Cambridge Analytica has come under scrutiny for its role in elections on both sides of the Atlantic, working on Brexit and Donald Trump’s election team. It is a key subject in two inquiries in the UK – by the Electoral Commission, into the firm’s possible role in the EU referendum, and the Information Commissioner’s Office, into data analytics for political purposes – and one in the US, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump-Russia collusion. The Observer revealed this week that the company had harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box. Emma Graham-Harrison

Cambridge Analytica said its chief data officer, Alexander Tayler, had been appointed acting chief executive while an investigation was carried out by Julian Malins QC, whose findings they would “share publicly in due course”.

“The board will be monitoring the situation closely, working closely with Dr Tayler, to ensure that Cambridge Analytica, in all of its operations, represents the firm’s values and delivers the highest-quality service to its clients.”

Arriving at Cambridge Analytica’s offices in New Oxford Street, London, on Tuesday, Nix told reporters “appearances can be deceptive” when asked about the Channel 4 News filming. Asked if the company would abandon its political work Nix gave no reply but firmly denied he had misled parliament when he gave evidence over its use of data, saying: “Absolutely not.”

He was seen leaving the office at 6.30pm through a fire exit door and did not answer questions as he got into a waiting black Mercedes.

In a series of secret recordings broadcast on Channel 4 News Nix claimed credit for the election of Donald Trump. He told an undercover reporter: “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.”

Revealing the firm’s system of erasing any digital footprint, he said they used a self-destruct email server.

He added: “No one knows we have it, and secondly we set our … emails with a self-destruct timer … So you send them and after they’ve been read, two hours later, they disappear. There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”

He was also recorded explaining how Cambridge Analytica set up proxy organisations to feed untraceable messages on to social media. And he mocked an investigation by the US House intelligence committee, to which he gave evidence in 2017. In the footage, he claimed Republican members asked just three questions. “After five minutes – done.”

He added: “They’re politicians, they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works.” He claimed that Democrats on the committee were motivated by “sour grapes”.

He further boasted that the firm could avoid any US investigation into its foreign clients, saying: “I’m absolutely convinced that they have no jurisdiction … We’ll say none of your business.”

Nix added that the election candidates were never told what was going on, agreeing that they were “puppets” in the hands of their campaign teams.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Israel says it has conducted ‘wide-ranging’ air strikes against Hamas

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Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets across the Gaza Strip Friday after shots were fired at troops on the border, the army said, with Hamas reporting three members of its military wing killed.

An army statement said shots were fired at troops during renewed protests along the Gaza-Israel frontier and “in response, (Israeli) aircraft and tanks targeted military targets throughout the Gaza Strip.”

The IDF says its warplanes have carried out ‘wide-ranging’ air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza, in response to the earlier gunfire.

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US Secretary of State Pompeo demands “full enforcement of sanctions” on North Korea

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told United Nations Security Council envoys on Friday that there needs to be “concrete actions” by North Korea before an easing of sanctions on Pyongyang can be discussed, said Dutch U.N. Ambassador Karel van Oosterom.

“The secretary made very clear we need concrete deeds, concrete actions and only then we can start the discussion,” van Oosterom told reporters after Pompeo informally briefed envoys from the 15-member council, Japan and South Korea behind closed doors at the South Korea U.N. mission.

(New York Times)

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Michael Cohen Secretly Taped Trump Discussing Payment to Playboy Model

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 President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed the payments with Mr. Cohen on the tape but said the payment was ultimately never made. He said the recording was less than two minutes and demonstrated that the president had done nothing wrong.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that Mr. Trump had directed Mr. Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, write a check, rather than sending cash, so it could be properly documented.

“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Cohen’s lawyers discovered the recording as part of their review of the seized materials and shared it with Mr. Trump’s lawyers, according to three people briefed on the matter.

“We have nothing to say on this matter,” Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny J. Davis, said when asked about the tape.

(New York Times)

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