The parent company of data research firm Cambridge Analytica, Strategic Communications Laboratories, has bragged about interference-tactics in foreign elections according to promotional materials published by the company. SCL, and its subsidiary, use psychometrics, the study of human characteristics to predict human behavior. They then use information gleaned from things like personality tests to help create algorithms that can help predict people’s reactions to online messaging, and ultimately, influence them.
According to marketing materials obtained by the BBC, the London-based company claims to have organized rallies in Nigeria in 2007 in order to weaken political support for the opposition. It also claims to have taken advantage of ethnic tensions in Latvia in order to help their client during that country’s 2006 elections.
In 2010, the company says it coordinated an “ambitious campaign of political graffiti” in Trinidad and Tobago that “ostensibly came from the youth” so that their clients could “claim credit for listening to a ‘united youth'”.
SCL claims in the brochure that potential clients could contact the company through “any British High Commission or Embassy.” The company also claims that it received “List X” authorization which means it had “government endorsed clearance to handle information protectively marked as ‘confidential’ and above.”
SCL was awarded British government contracts in 2008. Most of the activity described in the brochures seems to have taken place before then. The British Ministry of Defense confirms SLC was given List X authorization but that it was discontinued in 2013. The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office denies that SCL could be contacted through British diplomatic outposts, and awareness of SCL’s foreign election interference activity.
“It is not now nor ever has been the case that enquiries for SCL ‘can be directed through any British High Commission or Embassy’”, a spokesperson said. “Our understanding is that, at the time of the signing of the contract for project work in 2008/9, the FCO was not aware of SCL’s reported activity during the 2006 Latvian election or 2007 Nigerian election,” the FCO added.
Cambridge Analytica has recently been implicated in the data harvesting of some 50 million Facebook users’ account information, many of whom were U.S. voters. The information is believed to have been used to help Donald Trump’s campaign. Cambridge worked for the Trump campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It has also been revealed that the company may have used the data to influence English voters in the Brexit vote of 2016, where British voters chose to exit the European Union.
British police raided Cambridge’s London office yesterday. One dozen investigators entered the office late Friday night with a search warrant granted from a High Court judge. They reportedly left the offices seven hours later.