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Whistleblower tells UK lawmakers Facebook data was vital for Cambridge Analytica


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Whistleblower tells UK lawmakers Facebook data was vital for Cambridge Analytica

Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower behind the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal involving Facebook Inc. user data, discredited earlier claims made by the political consulting firm about its ties to the social media giant as he appeared March 27 before U.K. lawmakers in London.

During a hearing with the U.K. House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Wylie laid bare the inner workings of Cambridge Analytica, the London-based company that is at the center of an investigation into allegations that the personal data of millions of Facebook users was used without their consent.

He called an earlier statement by Alexander Nix, the suspended CEO of Cambridge Analytica, as "exceptionally misleading" and "dishonest" following revelations that the firm held vast amounts of user data after obtaining it from psychology researcher Aleksandr Kogan.

During a hearing with the committee last month, Nix had denied any unlawful use of Facebook user data. At the time, he defended the firm's technology as "no different from what the advertising industry at large is doing."

Wylie, however, told the British parliamentarians that "it is categorically untrue" that Cambridge Analytica never used Facebook data.

"Facebook data ... was the foundational data set of the company. That is how the algorithms were developed," he explained.

Cambridge Analytica immediately rebuffed his claims on Twitter, writing that "Christopher Wylie was a part-time contractor who left in July 2014 and has no direct knowledge of our work or practices since that date."

Nix, who was suspended by Cambridge Analytica's board March 20 pending an independent investigation, has since been recalled to give further evidence to the select committee.

The committee's chair, Damian Collins, also issued another call for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence about the company's use of personal data after the social networking platform declined prior invitation, opting instead to send Facebook's Chief Product Officer Chris Cox.

Separately, Wylie questioned the credibility of Britain's referendum result to leave the European Union, due to links between 'Vote Leave,' the official Brexit campaign, and Canadian data firm Aggregate IQ, which he labeled a "shell company" of Cambridge Analytica.

"I think it is completely reasonable to say there could have been a different outcome in the referendum had there not been, in my view, cheating," he said during the hearing.

Wylie also criticized the firm's involvement in political campaigns in developing countries, including Kenya where Cambridge Analytica supported President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election, arguing that much of their work had undermined "struggling" institutions in such nations.

Asked why he had decided to come forward with his claims against the firm, Wylie described the extensive development of psychometric inventories and psychological profiling, by using online data, and added that he believed this process had constituted "unlawful" activity on a large scale.

"When you look at how Cambridge Analytica operates… they do not care whether or not what they do is legal, as long it gets the job done," he stated.