The British company accused of manipulating voters to help both the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump used Israeli spies in its operations, its executives have revealed in an undercover sting operation.
Bosses at under-fire UK-based firm Cambridge Analytica told of using “very effective” Israeli intelligence-gathering in its foreign operations in a filmed meeting screened on Channel 4 this week. They made the revelations to journalists they thought were prospective clients.
It comes after the Observer broke the story that the firm had controversially acquired Facebook data on 50 million Americans, subsequently manipulating them to vote in one way or another based on their psychological profile as gleaned from their ‘likes,’ updates and messages. Cambridge Analytica denies any wrongdoing.
In the 20-minute video on Channel 4, the firm’s English boss Alexander Nix is heard saying that they used British and Israeli spies, honey traps, fake websites and fake news campaigns to gain information and influence opinion. When questioned, he said the Israelis were “very effective at intelligence gathering”.
At one point Nix’s colleague explains to the ‘clients’ that the firm’s foreign operations “use a different organisation” and, on the contracted spies, talks about their experience of using them in “an Eastern European country”.
He said: “Nobody even knew they were there. They just drift, they were ghosted in, did the work, ghosted out, and produced really, really good material.”
Whistleblower Chris Wylie alleged this week that the firm he worked at was bankrolled by right-wing US billionaires introduced by Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
Nix previously told MPs that Cambridge Analytica – which has no connection to the University of Cambridge – had never used Facebook data.
However Wylie told The Observer: “That’s just fundamentally not true. We spent $1 million harvesting tens of millions of Facebook profiles. Those profiles were used as the basis of the algorithms that became the foundation of Cambridge Analytica.”
Following the documentary, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned to give evidence before a parliamentary inquiry into fake news, after revelations about users’ data being bought by Cambridge Analytica.