A report has broken out that Israeli cybersecurity contractors hacked into President Muhammadu Buhari’s private e-mail and gave the materials to Cambridge Analytica, a firm hired by former President Goodluck Jonathan to provide “advertisement and marketing services” in support of his 2015 presidential re-election campaign.
According to a report by “The Guardian” and “Observer”, claiming to have spoken to seven individuals with knowledge of Cambridge Analytica and its campaign in Nigeria in early 2015, Senior directors of Cambridge Analytica, including its CEO Alexander Nix, gave staff instructions to handle material provided by computer hackers in election campaigns in Nigeria and some other named countries.
The revelations are the latest to focus attention on Cambridge Analytica, whose activities are being investigated in the US by the special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his inquiry into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 US presidential election.
The firm is under pressure to explain how it came about unauthorized access to 50 million Facebook users with their Facebook profiles. Lawmakers in the US and UK have accused the firm of giving misleading statements about its work, and the information commissioner has demanded access to the company’s databases.
Photo: Former President Goodluck Jonathan | campaigning for re-election in 2015
Hired by an unnamed Nigerian billionaire to support the re-election of PDP’s presidential candidate, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Cambridge Analytica was paid an estimated £2m to orchestrate a ferocious campaign against his rival, then Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.), now President Buhari. However, despite the clandestine operation of Cambridge Analytica, Jonathan lost out to Buhari in the 2015 presidential race. There is no suggestion or confirmed reports that Jonathan knew of the covert operation.
Staff working on the campaign said in early 2015, they met Israeli cybersecurity contractors in Cambridge Analytica’s offices in Mayfair, London. Employees said they were told the meeting was arranged by Brittany Kaiser, a senior director at the firm.
The Guardian and Observer have been told the Israelis brought a laptop from their office in Tel Aviv and handed employees a USB stick containing what they believed were hacked personal emails.
Sources said the firm’s CEO, Nix, who was suspended on Tuesday, and other senior directors told staff to search for incriminating material that could be used to damage opposition candidates, including Buhari.
As at the time of publishing this report, there was no comment or statement from either the APC, PDP or the Nigerian presidency.
SHORT BIO: CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA
Cambridge Analytica (CA) is a British political consulting firm which combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process. It was incorporated in Canary wharf, London as “SCL USA Limited” in January 2015 as a subsidiary of its American parent company SCL Group to participate in American politics. In April 2016, its name was changed to Cambridge Analytica (UK) limited.
Cambridge Analytica (CA) was established in 2013, however official records from Companies house UK only date it back to 2015. In 2014, CA was involved in 44 US political races. The company is partly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, an American hedge-fund manager who supports many politically conservative causes. The firm maintains offices in London, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
In 2015, it became known as the data analysis company working initially for Republican Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. In 2016 CA worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and on the Leave.EU-campaign for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU). CA’s role in those campaigns has been controversial and is the subject of ongoing criminal investigations in both countries. However, political scientists dispute CA’s claims about the effectiveness of its methods of targeting voters.
On 17 March 2018, The New York Times and The Observer reported on Cambridge Analytica’s use of personal information acquired from Facebook, without users’ permission, by an external researcher who claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes. In response, Facebook banned Cambridge Analytica from advertising on its platform. The Guardian further reported that Facebook had known about this security breach for two years but had done nothing to protect its users.
Investigations into the firm’s illegal and unethical digital activities are still ongoing.
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