Cambridge Analytica suspends chief executive as Facebook faces crisis over data

nixCambridge Analytica, the firm used by Donald Trump in his 2016 presidential campaign and currently embroiled in controversy over its use of Facebook data, has suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix. In a statement it said Nix’s comments, secretly recorded by Channel 4 News, “do not represent the values or operations of the firm”.

In a report broadcast yesterday, Nix suggested tactics his company could use to discredit politicians online. Inititially, Cambridge Analytica said the report had “grossly misrepresented” the conversations caught on camera.

However, this evening it issued another statement saying: “The Board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect, pending a full, independent investigation.

“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4, and other allegations, do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.

“We have asked Dr Alexander Tayler to serve as acting CEO while an independent investigation is launched to review those comments and allegations. We have asked Julian Malins QC to lead this investigation, the findings of which the Board will share publicly in due course.

“The board will be monitoring the situation closely, working closely with Dr Tayler, to ensure that Cambridge Analytica, in all of its operations, represents the firm’s values and delivers the highest-quality service to its clients.”

After complying with a request from Facebook to submit its servers and systems to a forensic audit, the company subsequently faced the prospect of the UK’s Information Commissioner applying to the courts for a warrant to carry out its own inspection.

Elizabeth Denham said in a statement on Monday evening: “On 7 March, my office issued a Demand for Access to records and data in the hands of Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica has not responded by the deadline provided; therefore, we are seeking a warrant to obtain information and access to systems and evidence related to our investigation.

“On 19 March, Facebook announced that it will stand down its search of Cambridge Analytica’s premises at our request. Such a search would potentially compromise a regulatory investigation.”

Before announcing the suspension of its chief executive, the company issued a statement earlier today saying: “Cambridge Analytica has been in touch with the Information Commissioner’s Office since February 2017, when ​we hosted its team in our London office to provide total transparency on all the data we hold, its usage, and other aspects of our business.

“We have been fully compliant and proactive in our conversations with the ICO.

“Since early last year we have subsequently cooperated with the ICO on multiple lines of enquiry, including most recently on the Facebook data and derivatives that we received from GSR, the research company that we engaged in good faith to legally supply data for research.

“On this point we have offered to share with the ICO all the information that it asked for and for the ICO to attend our office voluntarily, subject to our agreeing the scope of the inspection.

“We remain committed to helping the ICO and all other concerned organisations in their investigations and audits.”

Facebook said today it had been told by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it would receive a letter this week with questions about the data acquired by Cambridge Analytica. It said it had no indication of a formal investigation.“We remain strongly committed to protecting people’s information. We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have,” said Facebook’s Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman.

Since the weekend’s revelations, Facebook has had $60bn wiped off its stock market value. Other social media companies are suffering in its wake; Twitter’s share price slumped 9% today and Snap fell 4%.