28 March, 2018

Sam Coates, Deputy political editor, Stephen McGrath


A whistleblower at Cambridge Analytica has claimed that his predecessor died in suspicious circumstances. 

Christopher Wylie, a data specialist, appeared before MPs to outline the company’s work. He repeated allegations that Aggregate IQ (AIQ), the data company used by Vote Leave, was linked to Cambridge Analytica and helped to influence the EU referendum.

Mr Wylie told the culture committee that “cheating” by the Vote Leave campaign may have swayed the result and that AIQ “hacked material” and “tried to illicitly acquire live internet browsing data of everyone in an entire country”.

He also outlined tactics allegedly used by the company in African elections, including attempts to manipulate a Nigerian poll by distributing threatening and violent videos. He said that there had been moments on campaigns where staff feared for their safety.

“My predecessor was found dead,” he said. “One of my other co-workers had a massive head injury and is missing part of his skull. People do get hurt at this firm. They work with Israeli private intelligence firms who are willing to do essentially whatever if you pay them. This is why so many people . . . are afraid to come forward to talk about the firm because it’s intimidating.”

A friend of Muresan and a former contractor for SCL, the company that created Cambridge Analytica, said: “It was just an unfortunate and horribly sad event but it was a coincidence that he was in Kenya . . . Dan got engaged the week before and his dad was having some legal problems in Romania. Dan was certainly burning the candle at both ends and the clock ran out there. He never expressed a concern over his safety.”

Mr Wylie said that SCL had been an unscrupulous organisation that undermined democratic institutions, distributing violent videos with the intention of intimidating voters.

He said that it had employed Black Cube, an Israeli private intelligence company, in Nigeria to get access to the medical records and private emails of Muhammadu Buhari, who is now the country’s president. Black Cube denied the allegations.

Yesterday Facebook indicated that Mark Zuckerberg, its chairman, would refuse to meet MPs on the digital, culture, media and sport committee and has offered to send a deputy in his place.

In a letter to Damian Collins, the committee chairman, Facebook said that the company would send Mike Schroepfer, the chief technology officer, or Chris Cox, its chief product officer. Mr Zuckerberg will testify before Congress, according to reports.