According to Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie, former chief executive of the Trump campaign and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon oversaw the firm's program that used Facebook user data to compile detailed profiles of American voters.
Bannon founded Cambridge Analytica alongside conservative billionaire Robert Mercer and sat on the company's board.
The Washington Post reports that under Bannon, the firm piloted a "high-tech form of voter persuasion" in 2014 that tested the populist messaging American's would later hear from candidate Donald Trump -- including "drain the swamp" and "deep state".
In an interview Tuesday with The Washington Post at his lawyer’s London office, Wylie said that Bannon — while he was a top executive at Cambridge Analytica and head of Breitbart News — was deeply involved in the company’s strategy and approved spending nearly $1 million to acquire data, including Facebook profiles, in 2014.
“We had to get Bannon to approve everything at this point. Bannon was Alexander Nix’s boss,” said Wylie, who was Cambridge Analytica’s research director. “Alexander Nix didn’t have the authority to spend that much money without approval.”
Nix appeared to admit to using unethical, and potentially illegal, tactics in assisting clients' election efforts that include various forms of entrapment.
Nix was suspended from his position following Channel 4's initial Tuesday reporting.
Facebook also took action against Cambridge Analytica, and its parent company SCL Group, banning both from its platform as it investigates potential misuse of data.
It is unclear whether Bannon knew how Cambridge Analytica was obtaining the data, which allegedly was collected through an app that was portrayed as a tool for psychological research but was then transferred to the company.
The controversy over Cambridge Analytica’s data collection erupted in recent days amid news reports that an app created by a Cambridge University psychologist, Aleksandr Kogan, accessed extensive personal data of 50 million Facebook users. The app, called thisisyourdigitallife, was downloaded by 270,000 users. Facebook’s policy, which has since changed, allowed Kogan to also collect data —including names, home towns, religious affiliations and likes — on all of the Facebook “friends” of those users. Kogan shared that data with Cambridge Analytica for its growing database on American voters.
Facebook could also face repercussions for the misuse of its data:
The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Facebook to determine whether the social media platform violated a 2011 consent decree governing its privacy policies when it allowed the data collection. And Wylie plans to testify to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee as part of their investigation of Russian interference in the election, including possible ties to the Trump campaign.