Clegg: ‘Absolutely No Evidence’ Russia Influenced Brexit

Carole Cadwalladr and David Lammy have been spluttering furiously into their cornflakes all morning after Nick Clegg told the Today Programme that there was “absolutely no evidence” that Russia or Cambridge Analytica influenced Brexit. Clegg said “we have a duty to explain fact from some of the allegations that have been made”. Clearly not a duty that Carole has ever felt bound by herself

“Much though I understand why people want to reduce that eruption in British politics to some kind of plot or conspiracy, some use of new social media through opaque means, I’m afraid the roots to British euroscepticism go very, very deep…”

Never mind the fact that the official report from the Information Commissioner’s Office already crushed all of Carole’s grand conspiracies about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Brexit, raising questions about her pet whistleblower Chris Wylie instead. Clegg hasn’t triggered anyone this badly since tuition fees…

If she wants to start addressing disinformation on social media she could start with her own Observer ‘scoop’ over the weekend in which she deliberately mistranscribes a video of Steve Bannon talking about Boris. Bannon says “we went back and forth over text”, instead Carole transcribes this as “back and forth over the text” which then forms the crux of her story. The same people who’d be the first to say Bannon is a pathological liar are now taking an entirely unsubstantiated boast from him as the gospel truth before distorting it even further themselves…

Carole’s Bitter BAFTA Barb at Channel 4

Channel 4 execs were busy celebrating their BAFTA victory last night for their Cambridge Analytica exposé, despite mysteriously failing to put any real scrutiny on the key person at the heart of it all. Sadly one person who wasn’t sharing the love was Pulitzer-nominated journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who bitterly complained:

“Its fine, lads. You take the BAFTA. I’ll take the abuse.”

Who knew that making legal threats and trying to use data protection laws against your own collaborators isn’t good for your working relationships?

At least Carole doesn’t have to commiserate on her own, famously successful Twitter lawyer Jolyon Maugham cruelly suffered yet another defeat at the hands of the law last Friday as a judge threw out his final attempt to stop the UK having enough medicines in the event of no deal Brexit. Poor old Carole and Jolyon just can’t get a break…

Cambridge Analytica ‘Whistleblower’ Wylie Gets ‘Ethical’ New Data-Targeting Job

There was some surprising news from the world of fashion last week, with H&M announcing that they would be hiring Cambridge Analytica ‘whistleblower’ Chris Wylie to use data analytics and “sustainable and ethical” artificial intelligence to help them target potential customers. Guido thought he would do H&M the favour of reminding them about some of Wylie’s previous corporate engagements, to let them decide for themselves just how “ethical” they were…

Guido readers will be remember how Chris Wylie founded his own Cambridge Analytica spin-off, Eunoia Technologies, after acrimoniously parting ways with them. Eunoia then made failed pitches offering the same sort of illicit data targeting, to everyone from Britain Stronger in Europe to Donald Trump, until he finally found a client in Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in Canada, trousering a handsome C$100,000. Despite telling Damian Collins he had no clients…

The gaping hole in the narrative of Wylie’s Damascene conversion from “evil” data genius to righteous moral hero is the four-year gap between Wylie leaving Cambridge Analytica and finally deciding to blow the whistle on them, in which time he was happily carrying on with the same activities himself. Surely it had nothing to do with saving his own skin with a highly aggressive journalist hunting him down?

Even Damian Collins found enough time between grandstanding and amplifying Carole’s columns to put Wylie on the spot over this when he questioned him last year. If Wylie felt so strongly about the wrongdoing, why did he wait so long to expose it?

Wylie’s answers to Collins were a veritable cocktail of lies and misinformation:

  • Wylie told Collins that he hadn’t blown the whistle sooner because he “didn’t appreciate the future impact” of his work at the time as well as claiming that he did “not think military-style information operations is conducive for any democratic process”.
  • This is a bare-faced lie: in 2013 Wylie explicitly said his goal was to create the “NSA’s wet dream” and openly admitted he wanted to profit out of using the data for “evil” as “evil pays more”:

Our goal is first to make it an extremely profitable company. Then we will cleanse our souls with other projects, like using the data for good rather than evil. But evil pays more.”

  • Wylie even told Collins that Donald Trump’s election had made it “click in [his] head” about the wider impact of what he was doing. Another shameless lie given his own company’s attempts to sell voter-targeting services to Trump’s campaign…

Wylie also tried to use the excuse that Cambridge Analytica had come after him with a “very aggressive team of lawyers” and forced him to sign an undertaking of confidentiality. This is a highly distorted account of what actually happened:

  • According to the independent report into Cambridge Analytica by Julian Malins QC, CA’s lawyers did write to Wylie and his company, Eunoia, “regarding suspected breaches of covenants on intellectual property, client solicitation, staff solicitation and non-competition”.
  • CA found out after one of their existing US political clients tipped them off that they had received a proposal from Eunoia “which purported to deliver exactly the same services as SCL [CA’s parent company]”.

So CA did come after Wylie with lawyers after he left – not to try to hush him up but because he had started his own company in direct competition with them. And was attempting to poach their existing clients using their own intellectual property…

  • Wylie was forced to settle the prospective action in 2015 “by providing very wide ranging written undertakings to SCL… that, in summary, he would not use SCL’s intellectual property and other commercial or confidential material (obtained whilst working with SCL) in the course of his own business enterprise.”
  • As the Malins Report notes, his own business flopped after this: “Wylie was not then and has not been subsequently successful in forming and running a business competing with SCL/CA. Eunoia fell dormant and was subsequently struck off the company register.” Good of H&M to give him another go…

Wylie’s story suddenly starts to look less like a tale of redemption and more like a story of revenge. Carole’s appearance gave him the perfect opportunity to stick the knife into his former employers who had forced him out of business. While simultaneously covering up his own fundamental role in the scandal:

  • Right at the outset, Wylie introduced Cambridge Analytica to Dr Aleksandr Kogan, the academic who developed the original Facebook data-harvesting app.
  • He then worked directly with Kogan to turn it into the app at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
  • Wylie left Cambridge Analytica, took the illegally-obtained data with him, and launched his own company trying to steal their clients.
  • He unsuccessfully tried to pitch the same illicit voter-targeting services to a range of clients including Trump, Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe.
  • His company flopped after Cambridge Analytica forced him to stop using the intellectual property he stole from them.
  • Years later he finally turned whistleblower after being relentlessly pursued by Carole Cadwalladr for months.
  • Now he goes round the world doing media interviews and giving speeches about how he exposed the wrongdoing – which would probably never have happened in the first place without his involvement – while getting the chance to wipe his slate clean with a plushy job in industry.

And he’s meant to be the good guy in all of this?

Whistleblower Wylie Pocketed $100,000 From Trudeau Despite Telling Collins He Had No Clients

Fans of political dramas will be thrilled by the news that they will also have a Ron Howard-produced biopic of Chris Wylie – “the young gay visionary who created Cambridge Analytica” – to look forward to following Channel 4’s Brexit drama next month. Ron’s blurb says he’s setting out to tell the “true story of Chris Wylie”, Guido thought he would give Ron a little help with piecing some more of the facts together:

As Guido detailed last month, far from turning his back on illicit data activities after leaving Cambridge Analytica, Chris Wylie was busy attempting to flog the “psychographic microtargeting” services of his own company Eunoia Technologies to all and sundry, with little success. Wylie’s snake oil had already been turned down by Donald Trump and the Remain campaign before his pitch to Dominic Cummings flopped too…

Given this litany of failed attempts to monetise his dubious data practices, Damian Collins won’t have been too surprised when Wylie told him at the DCMS Committee on 27th March this year that he hadn’t “been able to benefit” himself from using the data on other projects outside Cambridge Analytica. Not for want of trying…

“I didn’t do any contracts or any, you know, work with that data… I haven’t worked with any clients that data was used for… that data got deleted, I believe, in 2015 on my end.”

Yet Wylie was still trying to peddle his voter-targeting techniques to Cummings in January 2016, and Facebook said that Wylie didn’t certify to them that he had deleted the data until August 2016. The 2015 date is almost certainly wrong…

And just one week before his appearance at the DCMS Committee, a major story broke in Wylie’s native Canada that in 2016 Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party had awarded a C$100,000 (£58,000) contract – to Chris Wylie and Eunoia TechnologiesSomehow Carole Cadwalladr’s prize-winning investigative skills entirely missed that one…

After media pressure in Canada, Trudeau’s Liberal Party was forced to release a statement confirming that Wylie’s firm had received C$100,000 of Canadian taxpayers’ money to conduct a “pilot project” for the party’s research bureau, including “setting up social media monitoring tools” and to “design and organize several national samples of Canadians to explore responses to Government policy priorities and other issues of national importance”. Which sounds remarkably similar to the psychological voter profiling and micro-targeting techniques Wylie was trying to tout elsewhere…

  • Was Wylie being straight with Collins when he told him he hadn’t “worked with any clients” or done “any contracts” with the data?
  • Was Wylie being straight with the Canadian Parliament when he told them his work hadn’t involved any targeting of voters, despite Liberal Party insiders saying that he had been trying to push micro-targeting techniques to the party for almost a decade?
  • Was Carole completely unaware of any of this as she was busy lionising him in the British press?

In fact, in his failed pitch to Vote Leave, Wylie told Cummings: “some of us will be in Ottowa this month working on a similar project for a major Canadian political party”. Wylie’s proposal to Cummings detailed a number of a data crimes he planned to commit including for his company to retain psychographic algorithms based on Vote Leave’s data “for future commercial applications”. Did Wylie’s work for Trudeau’s party involve “similar” breaches of data protection laws?

These are serious questions for Damian Collins, the ICO and the British media to ask. By his own admission, if Wylie did any work for clients using models built using the Facebook data, even if it wasn’t directly using the data itself, he is guilty of openly misleading Parliament. At least he didn’t walk away entirely empty-handed after all his hard work obtaining the illicit data in the first place…

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The Other Cambridge Analytica: Whistleblower Wylie’s Own Dodgy Data Dealings

While the ICO’s report into data use in the referendum principally served to blow apart Carole Cadwalladr’s main Brexit conspiracy, one aspect of the report that has largely been overlooked is the role of data-hustler-turned-whistleblower Chris Wylie. The one who made an international media and public speaking career out of setting up Cambridge Analytica and then dobbing them in…

A notable feature of the ICO report is how few people are explicitly named in it – not even Arron Banks is. The few that are include Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Dr Aleksandr Kogan, the academic whose company harvested the data behind the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a couple of other individuals related to Cambridge Analytica, and Chris Wylie. Not exactly the good guys in this whole saga…

Wylie’s inclusion in the report is not in the context of his role as whistleblower, it is as a key part of how Cambridge Analytica came to acquire the Facebook data at the heart of the scandal in the first place:

“In May 2014, Dr Aleksandr Kogan… offered to undertake the work himself as he had developed his own app called the ‘CPW Lab App’… We have seen evidence that CA staff, including whistleblower Chris Wylie, were involved in setting up these contacts through their networks of friends and colleagues; many of whom had been involved in earlier campaigns in North America…

“Once the company was set up and a contract signed with CA, Dr Kogan, with some help from Chris Wylie, overhauled the ‘CPW Lab App’ changing the name, terms and conditions of the app into the ‘GSR App’ which ultimately became thisisyourdigitallife (the app).”

Wylie himself has never denied his role in creating Cambridge Analytica, telling Damian Collins’ DCMS Select Committee in March: “To be clear, Cambridge Analytica was set up in large part because of the research I was doing at SCL Group [Cambridge Analytica’s parent company].”

However, Cambridge Analytica was not the only company which received the illicit Facebook data set that resulted from Wylie’s work with Dr Kogan. As has been reported in North American press (and confirmed by Mark Zuckerberg to the US Congress) but largely ignored in the UK, the harvested data was also acquired by one other company, Eunoia Technologies. Eunoia Technologies Inc. was a separate company registered in the US on 12th June 2014… by Chris Wylie.

Wylie’s background is in centre-left politics, he worked for many years with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in Canada and also worked with the Liberal Democrats in the UK. Since becoming a whistleblower, he has described social data harvesting as “grossly unethical”…

However, that didn’t stop Eunoia unsuccessfully trying to flog its services to Donald Trump’s campaign director in early 2015, before Eunoia again attempted to sell their services to the Remain campaign in November 2015, as Private Eye reported in April this year. Finally, he had yet another pitch rebuffed in January 2016, this time with Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings dismissing his offer of “psychographic microtargeting”. Evidently Cummings was not the only one who concluded they were “charlatans”…

Zuckerberg told the US Congress that Wylie had certified to Facebook that Eunoia deleted its data in August 2016, but added that Facebook had “no way to confirm” activities that had “taken place off Facebook and its systems”. Eunoia’s UK branch didn’t wind up as a company until 24 October 2017.

The ICO’s report itself is inconclusive about the fate of the Facebook data, confirming that their own investigations into it are still ongoing:

“Our concerns also extend to who else may have received the harvested data and what they then did with it; our enquiries are active and continuing in that regard…”

“We will be making sure any organisations, which may still have copies of the Facebook data and its derivatives demonstrate its deletion.”

Given his intimate involvement in the genesis of the scandal, it would be remarkable if Wylie and Eunoia were not key lines of inquiry for the ICO in this regard. Only two companies are known to have received the illicit data – Cambridge Analytica and Eunoia. The ICO obtained a search warrant and raided the offices of one. What has it done about the other?

Information Commissioner Crushes Carole’s Conspiracies

Guido readers will be well-versed in Carole Cadwalladr’s various conspiracy theories about how a secret nexus of data companies conspired to rig the Brexit vote. As well as the corrections that would inevitably follow her front page ‘revelations’, buried on page 50 of the next week’s Observer…

In an inconvenient twist for the Orwell Prize-winning journalist, the report out today from the Information Commissioner’s Office has crushed most of her central claims. Terrible when a good story gets undermined by basic facts…

Carole claimed that Leave.EU was working with Cambridge Analytica. The ICO found that there was “no evidence of a working relationship between Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU” beyond “preliminary discussions”:

“[B]oth parties stated that only preliminary discussions took place, and the relationship did not move forward when Leave.EU failed to attain the designation as the official Leave campaign… Based on our enquiries, testimony and interviews, we conclude that this is indeed the case – there is no evidence of a working relationship between CA and Leave.EU proceeding beyond this initial phase.”

Carole claimed that the Canadian data firm, AIQ, who worked with Vote Leave, was effectively the “Canadian branch” of Cambridge Analytica, although she has since retracted this claim. The ICO scotched this one too:

“Whilst there was clearly a close working relationship between the entities and several staff members were known to each other, we have no evidence that AIQ has been anything other than a separate legal entity… ultimately we have concluded that this was a contractual relationship.”

Carole’s whole conspiracy centered around the notion that AIQ and Cambridge Analytica had shared data in the referendum. In fact the ICO found no evidence that either Cambridge Analytica or its parent company SCL Elections were involved in any data analytics work on the referendum at all:

“We found no evidence of unlawful activity in relation to the personal data of UK citizens and AIQ’s work with SCLE. To date, we have no evidence that SCLE and CA were involved in any data analytics work with the EU Referendum campaigns.”

Meanwhile Vote Leave was given a clean bill of health for its data work with AIQ:

“We know that Vote Leave had a commercial relationship with AIQ. In respect of that work, we have not obtained any evidence that Vote Leave transferred or processed personal data outside the UK unlawfully – or that it processed personal data without the consent of data subjects… Our further investigations into AIQ revealed no evidence of the unlawful processing of UK personal data.”

After massively bigging up the report yesterday, Carole has been unusually quiet on Twitter since it landed, mainly complaining that no-one was paying attention to the “MUCH bigger story” (was it being “deliberately buried”?) and even accusing Buzzfeed – of all places – of doing Arron Banks’ “dirty work”Maybe she’s still feeling a little bit sore after *that* article

Remainers were hoping for an explosive report to blow up Brexit. Instead it revealed that it’s the Remain campaign and the Lib Dems who are under investigation for potential data breaches, while Arron Banks’ looming fines are almost entirely for using his Leave.EU mailing list to flog insurance after the referendum, not for activities during the campaign. The only thing the report blew up was Carole’s conspiracy. She was after all, as Isabel Oakeshott famously said, “chasing unicorns”…

Oakeshott vs Cadwalladr: “Will You Investigate Remain Campaign?”

A fiery exchange between Isabel Oakeshott and Carole Cadwalladr over the Observer splash this morning. Isabel challenged Cadwalladr:

“I feel this is utterly baffling to most people… you’ve been incredibly persistent, incredibly dogged, but at the end of it all I think you’ve proved is that Cambridge Analytica is a pretty dodgy and bad company… I have one question for you, are you going to apply this same forensic investigation to the remain campaign?”

Cadwalladr replied:

“This isn’t about remain or leave.”

Quelle surprise…

Malaysian Government Denies Using Cambridge Analytica

In the Channel 4 News sting Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix claimed to have worked for the Malaysians. The Malaysians say he is bullshitting. Guido knows who actually works for the Malaysians…

Cambridge Analytica Boss Considers Resigning

Cambridge Analytica’s poundshop Bond villain and bullsh*tter extraordinaire Alexander Nix says he is considering resigning after he was filmed telling an undercover reporter he could entrap politicians with Ukrainian prostitutes. Nix tells the Times“If that is going to help the company that is the right thing to happen”. It seems he was making all this up to land a client and his comical exaggerations could see him having to quit over something he hasn’t actually done. Not as clever as he thinks he is.

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