By Alistair Smout
LONDON (Reuters) – Cambridge Analytica’s former chief denied deliberately misleading British lawmakers, even as he admitted that his firm did receive data from the researcher at the center of a scandal over Facebook data, contradicting his previous testimony.
Cambridge Analytica has said its work on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign did not use data at the center of the Facebook scandal, where the details of around 87 million users were allegedly improperly obtained.
Former chief Alexander Nix, in earlier testimony to a parliamentary committee, denied that Cambridge Analytica had ever been given data by Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher at the center of the scandal. However, on Wednesday he said that the consultancy had indeed been given data by Kogan.
“Of course, the answer to this question should have been ‘yes,'” Nix said, adding that he thought he was being asked about whether Cambridge Analytica still held data from the researcher. He said the company had deleted the data.
“My focus was on whether we still held the data… There was certainly no intention to mislead the committee,” he added.
The media committee is investigating fake news, and is increasingly focused on the role of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook in the 2016 Brexit vote and in the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Lawmakers on the committee asked Nix to return to testify again to ask him about inconsistencies in his evidence. Kogan told lawmakers he did give Cambridge Analytica the data.
Facebook says Kogan harvested the data by creating an app on the platform that was downloaded by 270,000 people, providing access not only to their own personal data but also data from their friends.
Facebook said Kogan then violated its policies by passing the data to Cambridge Analytica.
While admitting it had received the data, Nix said it was not useful to the company.
“The data that we received wasn’t fit for purpose,” Nix said. “It wasn’t the foundational dataset on which we built our company.”
Lawmakers also quizzed Nix about a secret recording of him saying that Cambridge Analytica’s online campaign played a decisive role in U.S. President Trump’s election victory, broadcast by Channel 4 television in March. Cambridge Analytica at the time said the comments did not “represent the values or operations of the firm.”
Nix apologized for his comments, saying he had been foolish and had made exaggerated claims in order to attract what he thought was a potential client.
“It’s not only deeply embarrassing, but it’s something I regret enormously,” he said.
Nix said that Channel 4 had heavily edited the footage to portray him in a worse light, which the TV channel denied.
“All Mr Nix’s comments carried in our reports were used in context, including any caveats,” Channel 4 said in a statement.
(Editing by Stephen Addison)