Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen
Kaiser says Alexander Nix, who is currently suspended from his post as head of Cambridge Analytica, told her that he wanted access to the US market “while the data laws were still the wild west”.
Cambridge Analytica has been tweeting responses to some of the claims Kaiser has been making.
In 2014 and 2015 Cambridge Analytica subcontracted some digital marketing and software development to AggregateIQ. The suggestion that Cambridge Analytica was somehow involved in any work done by Aggregate IQ in the 2016 EU referendum is entirely false.
There are no joint investors between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ and there never have been.
Cambridge Analytica has never received data from any Arron Banks company
Q: Did Eldon Insurance and GoSkippy give you all their customer data?
Kaiser says the firms did not hand over any data. But Kaiser was told what data they were using.
Caroline Lucas, the Green party co-leader and a supporter of the anti-Brexit group Best for Britain, says the latest revelations from Kaiser are “damning”. In a statement released by Best for Britain she said:
This latest revelation is damning. For a former Cambridge Analytica director to say that the misuse of date was ‘rife’ [see 11.14am] adds further weight to our calls for an inquiry into campaign and electoral spending.
There is an increasingly dark cloud of suspicion hanging over the actions of the Leave campaign – and the blurred lines between campaigns and organisations that really should have been separate.
The Labour MP Jo Stevens is asking questions now.
Q: So Arron Banks was using customer data for his own purposes?
Andy Wigmore, who was communications director for Leave.EU, has said that he and Arron Banks should be allowed to give evidence to the culture committee to give their side of the story.
@DamianCollins @BBCRadio4 @Arron_banks Damian you are an absolute liar – you should now call both Arron and I to your #FakeNews @CommonsCMS or do you not want to be shown up for the complete anti-Brexit fool you are.
Kaiser says, before 2015, Cambridge Analytica’s data expertise was treated as a “weapons-grade” asset by the UK government. That meant the firm had to tell the government if it was going to use it abroad.
Damian Collins goes next.
Kaiser says she has concerns about three possible breaches of the law.
She says there could have been breaches of electoral law. Cambridge Analytica did work for Leave.EU that was not paid for.
I was recently made aware of a data company set up by Arron Banks called “Big Data Dolphins”, soon after he ceased negotiations with Cambridge Analytica and declined to pay our phase 1 bill.
This company has reportedly worked with a data science team at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). If the Mississippi team has held or processed UK citizens’ data in the US, I believe that is likely to be a criminal offence; although it is for the empowered authorities to pursue any such question and secure the associated evidence.
Matthew Richardson, a lawyer, co-wrote the legal opinion (pdf) about what Ukip could and could not do with its data. Kaiser says it is unusual for someone involved in an organisation (Richardson was Ukip’s party secretary) to be providing legal advice to it.
Q: Were you pitching to Ukip or Leave.EU?
Kaiser says she was pitching to Leave.EU, although Matthew Richardson, the Ukip party secretary, attended most meetings. Ukip were backing Leave.EU.
Simon Hart, a Conservative, goes next.
Q: How much work did you do for Leave.EU?
Turning back to Kaiser’s written statement (pdf), she also says Cambridge Analytica had a special relationship with Breitbart, the rightwing website. She says:
In reviewing the events around the Brexit campaign, I was recently reminded of the fact that the Breitbart media platform had a UK channel, “Breitbart London”, in which UKIP-linked figures played key roles. One of Cambridge Analytica’s competitive advantages in the US marketplace in 2016, and a key part of our pitch to Republican clients, was that we had secured exclusive rights to resell Breitbart engagement data. This meant that we had at least some access to what tens of millions of Americans were reading on Breitbart, and could feed this data into our campaign models to help predict resonant issues – and to influence behaviour. Breitbart became one of the biggest media platforms in the US in 2016, and its stories often went viral on Facebook.
I am not aware of any such agreement or data sharing in relation to Breitbart London, but it would be interesting to know if our US data tracking tags were in place on that UK channel, and whether any data about what stories British people were reading on Breitbart or other websites ever made their way to Leave campaigns.
The Labour MP Paul Farrelly is asking the questions now.
Q: What was the link between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ?
This morning, commenting on a Tweet including a link to a Daily Mirror story about the Nazi propaganda material released by the culture committee yesterday, Arron Banks posted this on Twitter.
Bollocks , more fake news from whining losers. https://t.co/wSb0HKCpk5
In her written evidence (pdf) Kaiser suggests that Arron Banks, the Ukip donor and Leave.EU founder, used data from his insurance company for political purposes. She says:
Cambridge Analytica was initially engaged with Arron Banks, Andy Wigmore and Matthew Richardson to design parallel proposals for Leave.EU, GoSkippy/Eldon Insurance and the UK Independence Party. I was asked by Nix and Wheatland to take the lead on contract negotiations. I believe this is because, as upper class Brits, they did not want to front up the deal with him themselves. Banks was excited to discover my background with the Obama campaign.
Over a period of five months, we undertook both meetings and work at the Bristol headquarters of Eldon Insurance, the SCL Group offices in Mayfair, and the Leave.EU London offices in Millbank Tower, as well as a press launch and media engagements. Our work for UKIP/Leave.EU was never reported to the Electoral Commission by the party, the campaign, or our company.
Our position on this is that no customer data was used and nobody has provided any no evidence to the contrary on this.
All this is is political bad blood on the side of the remain campaign. We are happy to work with anyone that wants to look into this and have done so, but no evidence has ever been brought forward.
Q: Could you explain how Cambridge Analytica and SCL work? Some people have told us that everything is really part of SCL?
She says most staff were shared between the companies. She does not know that anyone was employed directly by Cambridge Analytica.
Here is an extract from the conclusion to Kaiser’s written statement (pdf) to the committee.
Governments, private companies and wealthy individuals have long had the opportunity to buy, license and collect our datasets. The past decade has seen a rampant rise of this data collection and modelling, targeting individuals to sell products, services and political ideology. I know this all too well, as a data rights campaigner and former employee of Cambridge Analytica.
Privacy has become a myth, and tracking people’s behavior has become an essential part of using social media and the internet itself; tools that were meant to free our minds and make us more connected, with faster access to information than ever before. Instead of connecting us, these tools have divided us. It’s time to expose their abuses, so we can have an honest conversation about how we build a better way forward.
Brittany Kaiser opens by saying she is giving evidence because she believes in truth and democracy.
She says she was born in the US, but studied at Edinburgh University. She worked on Barack Obama’s campaign team. Then worked for human rights causes, she says.
Damian Collins, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, opens the hearing by referring to the material published this morning on the committee’s website.
He says Brittany Kaiser has also given the committee some emails. The committee will release them once it has redacted personal material, he says.
The Commons culture committee has just published on its website three pieces of written evidence from Brittany Kaiser.
Brittany Kaiser, the former director of programme development at Cambridge Analytica, is about to give evidence to the Commons culture committee.
As my colleague Matthew Weaver reports, Kaiser told the Today programme this morning that the firm pitched “a very detailed strategy” to Leave.EU on how it could use data and psychological profiling to microtarget people likely to back Brexit in the referendum.
David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, told the Today programme this morning that the government is still not certain whether any Windrush-era citizens in the UK have been wrongly deported, my colleagues Peter Walker and Amelia Gentleman report.
The UK Government is to challenge Brexit legislation passed by the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations, the Press Association reports. Bills passed in the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly last month have been referred to the supreme court.
The decision has been taken by the attorney general and the advocate general for Scotland, the government’s senior law officers. The court is being asked to rule on whether the legislation is constitutional and within the powers of the devolved legislatures.
Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, said:
This legislation risks creating serious legal uncertainty for individuals and businesses as we leave the EU. This reference is a protective measure which we are taking in the public interest. The government very much hopes this issue will be resolved without the need to continue with this litigation.
The number of people in work has reached a record high, while earnings have grown slightly above inflation for the first time in almost a year, new figures showed. As the Press Association reports, employment increased by 55,000 in the quarter to February to 32.2m, the highest figure since records began in 1971, giving a record rate of 75.4%. Unemployment fell by 16,000 to 1.42m, the lowest in more than a decade, giving a jobless rate of 4.2%, the lowest since 1975, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Average earnings increased by 2.8% in the year to February, unchanged on the previous month and the highest since September 2015. As PA reports, the latest CPI inflation figure is 2.7% and is expected to remain unchanged when new figures are published on Wednesday.
The labour market continues to be strong and, for the first time in almost a year, earnings have grown slightly after inflation has been taken into account.
Emma Briant, the lecturer who interviewed Nigel Oakes and Andy Wigmore and who supplied transcripts to the culture committee (see 9.42am), told the Today programme that she had not prompted Oakes or Wigmore to talk about the Nazis. She said:
I don’t bring up the Nazis in my interviews. That was completely off the cuff from them. I was really shocked that this came up in two of my interviews separately. It honestly, in the interview situation, hit me like a brick wall. And I found it quite hard to continue. I think the power of those words is conveyed by themselves … I honestly felt that I had a moral obligation, and also obligation to the public interest as an academic [to reveal what was said]. I can’t sit on evidence like this when such important revelations are coming out across the media.
The transcripts published by the Commons culture committee yesterday were from interviews conducted by Emma Briant, a lecturer at the University of Essex specialising in propaganda. The transcripts are here. And there are three essays Briant has submitted to the committee explaining the context.
Here are the key quotes.
Often, as you rightly say, it’s the things that resonate, sometimes to attack the other group and know that you are going to lose them is going to reinforce and resonate your group. Which is why, you know, Hitler, got to be very careful about saying so, must never probably say this, off the record, but of course Hitler attacked the Jews, because … He didn’t have a problem with the Jews at all, but the people didn’t like the Jews. So if the people … He could just use them to say … So he just leverage an artificial enemy. Well that’s exactly what Trump did. He leveraged a Muslim- I mean, you know, it’s – It was a real enemy. ISIS is a real, but how big a threat is ISIS really to America? Really, I mean, we are still talking about 9/11, well 9/11 is a long time ago.
The propaganda machine of the Nazis, for instance – you take away all the hideous horror and that kind of stuff – it was very clever, the way they managed to do what they did. In its pure marketing sense, you can see the logic of what they were saying, why they were saying it, and how they presented things, and the imagery. And that is propaganda. ISIS interestingly … And you know this, course you do. And looking at that now, in hindsight, having been on the sharp end of this campaign, you think: crikey, this is not new, and it’s just – it’s using the tools that you have at the time. I think 2016 was unique: I don’t think you could ever repeat it, and I don’t think you could ever repeat the techniques that people had used in 2016. It was of its time. And Twitter, and Facebook, were of its time for political campaigning. You could never repeat that.
Yesterday MPs spent almost seven hours debating Syria, if you take into account Theresa May’s Commons statement, the emergency debate and the short business statement. Today there will be another three-hour emergency debate, called by Jeremy Corbyn, on the subject of parliament approving military action. But the motion just says “that this House has considered parliament’s rights in relation to the approval of military action by British forces overseas” and so, even if someone does force a division, it will be a pointless, symbolic one. By the end of today MPs will have spent more than an hour in debate for every single missile fired at Syria by the RAF last week (there were eight). But, to adopt a phrase from another patch of our political landscape, there won’t have been a single meaningful vote – a vote on a substantive motion approving the airstrikes.
Before then, the Cambridge Analytica story is back in the Commons, because the culture committee it taking evidence from another Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Brittany Kaiser, its former director of programme development.
I’ve seen the transcripts that those extracts came from and it [the Nazi comparison] was volunteered by Nigel Oakes [SCL’s founder] and Andy Wigmore [Leave.EU’s communications director]. And I think the reference they are making is very clear; that they are saying what the Nazis did was create bogeymen for people to be frightened of, and then actively go out and make people frightened of them, and aggressively target people that are likely to be most susceptible to that message to influence the way in which they behave.
And our concern, as a committee, is, were these tactics being used in the referendum campaign? And does modern technology allow data profiles to be built up of people that makes it much easier to target people in this way? And maybe organisations have got hold their data to facilitate this process and the individual user has never consented for that organisation to have that data.