An undercover investigation by Channel 4 News has revealed the unethical and potentially illegal methods used by data consulting firm Cambridge Analytica -- the company used by Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign -- in the quest to win elections for its clients all across the globe.
Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica's chief executive, says the company operates in secret and has several ways to entrap unsuspecting candidates -- from bribes to sex workers.
In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Mr Nix said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.
In another he said: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.”
Channel 4 News was able to coax such details from Nix, along with Mark Turnbull, the managing director of CA Political Global, and the company’s chief data officer, Dr Alex Tayler, by sending in an undercover reporter who claimed he needed help with an election in Sri Lanka.
Mr Nix told our reporter: “…we’re used to operating through different vehicles, in the shadows, and I look forward to building a very long-term and secretive relationship with you.”
Nix also told the reporter that the company could assume virtually any form necessary to avoid unwanted attention:
“…Many of our clients don’t want to be seen to be working with a foreign company… so often we set up, if we are working then we can set up fake IDs and websites, we can be students doing research projects attached to a university, we can be tourists, there’s so many options we can look at. I have lots of experience in this.”
A spokesperson for Cambridge Analytica denied all allegations:
“We entirely refute any allegation that Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes, or so-called “honey-traps” for any purpose whatsoever… We routinely undertake conversations with prospective clients to try to tease out any unethical or illegal intentions…”
They said: “Cambridge Analytica does not use untrue material for any purpose.”