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When the Russia question came up during a hearing at the British Parliament last month, Alexander Nix did not hesitate. “We’ve never worked in Russia,” said Mr. Nix, head of a data consulting firm that advised the Trump campaign on targeting voters. “We’ve never worked with a Russian organization in Russia or any other country, and we don’t have any relationship with Russia or Russian individuals.” But Mr. Nix’s business did have some dealings with Russian interests, according to company documents and interviews. Mr. Nix is a director of SCL Group, a British political and defense contractor, and chief executive of its American offshoot, Cambridge Analytica, which advised the Trump campaign. Lukoil was interested in how data was used to target American voters, according to two former company insiders who said there were at least three meetings with Lukoil executives in London and Turkey. SCL and Lukoil denied that the talks were political in nature, and SCL also said there were no meetings in London. On two promotional documents obtained by The New York Times, SCL said it did business in Russia. While Mr. Nix’s firm turned over some records to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during its investigation of Russian interference, Democrats on the committee want a fuller review. Arash Repac, chief executive of Lukoil Eurasia Petrol, offered a different explanation for the talks. He said that a meeting he attended with SCL in Turkey involved a promotional campaign with local soccer teams.
The claims that Cambridge Analytica used data harvested from millions of Facebook profiles to target voters in the US general election in 2016 raises tough questions for both companies. In what appeared to be a damage limitation exercise, the social network preempted the stories that appeared in the Observer and the New York Times over the weekend by banning the political strategy company from its platform while it investigated the claims. But this goes much deeper than that. Facebook’s 2.2bn active users might well wonder, how safe is their personal data? And is Facebook doing enough to secure it? ‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower Read more And why did Facebook only react on Friday, when it must have known there was a potential problem many months, if not years, ago. In August 2016, it sent a legal letter to Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica employee, asking him to destroy any data he held that had been improperly collected. More troubling still is the apparent lack of any systematic response to ensure the same type of breach does not happen again. What are the Cambridge Analytica Files? Facebook may also find its users asking uncomfortable questions about the social network’s own use of data.
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