The former chief of disgraced data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, has not disputed accusations that he engaged in unethical commercial practices including ‘bribery’ and ‘voter disengagement campaigns,’ in a procedure that will see him banned from heading up companies for seven years.
Under UK insolvency law, the procedure, called disqualification undertaking, allows company directors to voluntarily disqualify themselves from court action, provided that they subject themselves to certain conditions.
Nix’s acceptance of such conditions on September 14 will result in a seven-year disqualification from “acting as a director or directly or indirectly becoming involved, without permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company,” as a result of his leadership of SCL Elections and associated firms including Cambridge Analytica.
The ban comes in from 5 October this year.
SCL Elections, SCL Group Ltd, SCL Social Ltd, SCL Analytics Ltd, SCL Commercial Ltd, and Cambridge Analytica (UK) Ltd – companies led at different times by Nix, have now gone into administration following an adverse public backlash to the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal.
A statement from the UK’s Insolvency Service, who have been conducting an investigation of Nix’s business practices since they went into compulsory liquidation in April 2019, states that Nix’s declaration admits to offering ‘unethical services’ as part of his companies’ operation.
‘Bribery and honey trap stings’
Such services include, the admission states, “bribery or honey trap stings, voter disengagement campaigns, obtaining information to discredit political opponents and spreading information anonymously in political campaigns.”
“Following an extensive investigation, our conclusions were clear that SCL Elections had repeatedly offered shady political services to potential clients over a number of years,” said Mark Bruce, chief investigator for the Insolvency Service.
“Alexander Nix’s actions did not meet the appropriate standard for a company director and his disqualification from managing limited companies for a significant amount of time is justified in the public interest.”
In March 2018, several media outlets reported that Cambridge Analytica had obtained the personal data of around 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge. Around 2.7 million of those users were EU-based. Later in the year, the company filed for insolvency proceedings and went into administration.
For its part, Facebook was fined £500,000 by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal in late 2018.
The ICO found that between 2007 and 2014, Facebook processed the personal information of users unfairly by allowing app developers access to users’ information without clear consent. Moreover, the social media giant permitted access to users’ data from third-party platforms, even if users had not downloaded the app in question but were simply ‘friends’ with other users who had.
The £500,000 fine, which some may regard as relatively low, was actually the maximum allowable under the laws which applied at the time the incidents occurred.
The breaches that took place between 2007 and 2014 are subject to the Data Protection Act 1998, and not the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), under which firms can be hit with maximum fines of €20 million or 4% of global turnover.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]