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Cambridge Analytica’s Nix claims dissolving email use

Nate Lanxon

Senior executives of Cambridge Analytica, the U.K. company accused of harvesting Facebook Inc. user profiles in its work for Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential campaign, were recorded on camera boasting about the research and analysis they did for the candidate.

Chief Executive of Cambridge Analytica (CA) Alexander Nix, leaves the offices in central London, Tuesday March 20, 2018. Cambridge Analytica, has been accused of improperly using information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts. It denies wrongdoing. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

In part three of an investigation aired Tuesday by Britain’s Channel 4 News, an undercover reporter films Cambridge Chief Executive Officer Alexander Nix saying: "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."

The executive also acknowledged his company used a self-destructing email server to communicate with clients in order to eliminate evidence of their contact.

“You send them and after they’ve been read, two hours later, they disappear,” Nix was recorded telling an undercover Channel 4 News reporter in a private meeting. “There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”

The board of Cambridge Analytica suspended Nix, effective immediately, the company said in a statement. 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,” the board said.

Alexander Tayler will serve as acting CEO while an independent investigation is launched to review the comments and allegations, the board said.

Channel 4 News filmed a series of meetings at London hotels over four months between November 2017 and January 2018, using an undercover reporter posing as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.

Cambridge, originally funded by former Renaissance Technologies co-CEO and early Trump backer Robert Mercer, uses data to reach voters with hyper-targeted messaging, including on Facebook and other online services. Cambridge was hired to help with voter outreach by the Trump campaign, whose former campaign manager, Steve Bannon, had been on its board.

Facebook is drawing scrutiny from the main U.S. privacy watchdog and half a dozen powerful congressional committees over how Cambridge Analytica obtained the personal data of 50 million users. Facebook officials have tentatively agreed to brief U.S. House Judiciary Committee members as soon as Wednesday on the use of the personal data by Cambridge Analytica.

In the most recently released tapes, Nix belittled representatives on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee after he voluntarily attended a private interview the last year as part of its investigation into Russian interference during the presidential campaign.

“I went to speak to them and the Republicans asked three questions,” he said. “Five minutes, done." He added that during the same meeting Democratic interviewers asked two hours of questions.

“They’re politicians, they’re not technical,” the executive told Channel 4’s reporter. “They don’t understand how it works.”

In a previous Channel 4 News expose, the undercover reporter filmed Cambridge Analytica executives talking about how the firm could use prostitutes and former spies to ensnare politicians and influence elections. In one video, Nix said the company could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house.”

In an earlier interview with the BBC’s Newsnight, Nix said: “A lot of the allegations that have been put to Cambridge are entirely unfounded and extremely unfair.” Cambridge Analytica said in a statement that it "strongly denied the claims" that it misused Facebook data.

“Cambridge Analytica has never claimed it won the election for President Trump,” a spokesman for the company told Channel 4 News ahead of Tuesday’s broadcast. "This is patently absurd. We are proud of the work we did on that campaign, and have spoken in many public forums about what we consider to be our contribution to the campaign.”