The former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, the disgraced data company that worked for the 2016 Trump campaign and shut down in 2018 over a voter manipulation scandal involving masses of Facebook data — has been banned from running limited companies for seven years.
Alexander Nix signed a disqualification undertaking earlier this month, which the U.K. government said yesterday it had accepted. The ban commences on October 5.
“Within the undertaking, Alexander Nix did not dispute that he caused or permitted SCL Elections Ltd or associated companies to market themselves as offering potentially unethical services to prospective clients; demonstrating a lack of commercial probity,” the U.K. insolvency service wrote in a press release.
Nix was suspended as CEO of Cambridge Analytica at the peak of the Facebook data scandal after footage emerged of him, filmed by undercover reporters, boasting of spreading disinformation and entrapping politicians to meet clients’ needs.
Cambridge Analytica was a subsidiary of the SCL Group, which included the division SCL Elections, while Nix was one of the key people in the group — being a director for SCL Group Ltd, SCL Social Ltd, SCL Analytics Ltd, SCL Commercial Ltd, SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica (UK) Ltd. All six companies entered into administration in May 2018, going into compulsory liquidation in April 2019.
The “potentially unethical” activities that Nix does not dispute the companies offered, per the undertaking, are:
- bribery stings and honey trap stings designed to uncover corruption
- voter disengagement campaigns
- the obtaining of information to discredit political opponents
- the anonymous spreading of information
Last year the FTC also settled with Nix over the data misuse scandal — with the former Cambridge Analytica boss agreeing to an administrative order restricting how he conducts business in the future. The order also required the deletion/destruction of any personal information collected via the business.
Back in 2018 Nix was also grilled by the U.K. parliament’s DCMS committee — and in a second hearing he claimed Cambridge Analytica had licensed “millions of data points on American individuals from very large reputable data aggregators and data vendors such as Acxiom, Experian, Infogroup”, arguing the Facebook data had not been its “foundational data-set”.
It’s fair to say there are still many unanswered questions attached to the data misuse scandal. Last month, for example, the U.K.’s data watchdog — which raided Cambridge Analytica’s U.K. offices in 2018, seizing evidence, before going on to fine and then settle with Facebook (which did not admit any liability) over the scandal — said it would no longer be publishing a final report on its data analytics investigation.
Asked about the fate of the final report on Cambridge Analytica, an ICO spokesperson told us: “As part of the conclusion to our data analytics investigation we will be writing to the DCMS select committee to answer the outstanding questions from April 2019. We have committed to updating the select committee on our final findings but this will not be in the form of a further report.”
It’s not clear whether the DCMS committee — which has reformed with a different chair versus the one who in 2018 led the charge to dig into the Cambridge Analytica scandal as part of an enquiry into the impact of online disinformation — will publish the ICO’s written answers. Last year its final report called for Facebook’s business to be investigated over data protection and competition concerns.
You can read a TechCrunch interview with Nix here, from 2017 before the Facebook data scandal broke, in which he discusses how his company helped the Trump campaign.