LONDON (Reuters) – British lawmakers on Monday published evidence that Brexit campaign group Leave.EU benefited from work by Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy at the center of a recent storm over use of Facebook data.
FILE PHOTO: A person is seen inside the building which houses the offices of Cambridge Analytica as investigators from Britain’s Information Commissioners Office entered, following the granting of a search warrant by a High Court judge, in London, Britain March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
Nigel Oakes, founder of SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, said the consultancy was lined up to do work with Leave.EU in the event that it was designated as the official campaign to leave the European Union, according to transcripts of interviews published by a parliamentary committee.
Oakes said that “there was no contract and no money” but that they did do work to demonstrate their capabilities. A transcript of another interview with Leave.EU official Andy Wigmore says the campaign group copied Cambridge Analytica’s methods.
“Leave.EU benefited from their work with Cambridge Analytica before the decision was made on which Leave campaign would receive the official designation for the referendum,” Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said in a statement.
Cambridge Analytica lies at the center of a storm for using data obtained from millions of Facebook users without their permission after it was hired by Donald Trump for his 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign.
The analytics firm is also under scrutiny over campaigning for the 2016 referendum when Britons voted to leave the European Union, a move seen by critics as a colossal historical mistake but by admirers as a vital reassertion of British sovereignty.
Oakes said Wigmore’s claim to have copied Cambridge Analytica’s techniques raised “more questions about how Leave.EU developed their database to do this, and whether consumer data from other companies they had a relationship was used to support their campaign.”
The interview transcripts were submitted by Emma Briant, an academic who interviewed figures from SCL Group, Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU.
In the event, “Vote Leave” beat Leave.EU to become the officially designated campaign to leave the EU ahead of Britain’s referendum, though Leave.EU continued to campaign for Brexit.
Leave.EU founder Arron Banks has said that because it did not win the designation and due to concerns about the consultancy, it did no work with Cambridge Analytica, and received no benefit in kind.
Former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix told the committee in February that the firm did not work with Leave.EU, but he has been recalled for a new hearing, which will take place on Wednesday.
The lawmakers were also critical of Wigmore and Oakes for speaking in admiring terms about Nazi propaganda techniques, and said there were also questions about Cambridge Analytica’s closeness with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
“The propaganda machine of the Nazis, for instance – you take away all the hideous horror and that kind of stuff – it was very clever, the way they managed to do what they did,” Wigmore said, according to one interview transcript.
Collins said that the “extreme messaging” around immigration during the campaign meant “these statements will raise concerns that data analytics was used to target voters who were concerned about this issue, and to frighten them with messaging designed to create ‘an artificial enemy’ for them to act against.”
Reporting by Alistair Smout, Editing by William Maclean
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Tencent Holdings Ltd is leading a deal to invest 10 billion yuan ($ 1.59 billion) in Chinese menswear group Heilan Home Co Ltd, upping a retail rivalry with fellow internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, sources with knowledge of the matter said.
China’s second-largest e-commerce company JD.com Inc and online clothing platform Vipshop Holdings Ltd will also be among the group that plans to acquire less than 10 percent of the company for 5 billion yuan, one source said.
Another 5 billion yuan would help set up an industrial investment fund to focus on deals that fit with Heilan’s business, the person said, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Heilan had a market value of about $ 8.13 billion as of Monday, when it halted shares from trading, pending deal announcements.
Tencent, JD.com and Vipshop declined to comment. A Heilan spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
The proposed deal, which could be announced as early as Friday, extends a recent push by Tencent, China’s biggest social network and gaming company, into bricks-and-mortar retail to further compete with Alibaba.
Heilan which has clothing brands such as HLA and SANCANAL, has been a long-time partner of Alibaba’s online marketplace Tmall.
But last month Tencent, which has a market capitalization of $ 563 billion, said it would invest 4.2 billion yuan for a stake in Yonghui Superstores. It is also looking to take a stake in the China business of French supermarket retailer Carrefour.
The recent moves reflect a wider, long-running stand-off between Tencent and Alibaba, which have made competing investments in areas as diverse as bike-sharing apps, food delivery and gaming.
JD.com, in which Tencent is a top-10 investor, traditionally leads against Alibaba in online retail sales of electronics and home appliance products, but lags behind in the fashion business.
Tencent and JD.com last month jointly made an $ 863 million investment in Vipshop, in a bid to tap the country’s young female shoppers and gain access to consumer and transaction data to help them compete with Alibaba’s online payment platform Alipay.
Jiangsu-based Heilan was set up by Zhou Jianping, one of the richest people in China’s fashion industry, in 1997. It runs more than 5,000 stores, mostly in China, and recorded 12.5 billion yuan in operating income in the first three quarters last year, its website showed.
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Privacy advocates are stepping up their lobbying efforts against the controversial cyber threat information sharing bill currently in Congress after several tech giants indicated their support.
Activist group Fight for the Future criticized Salesforce for supporting legislation which would “grant blanket immunity for American companies to participate in government mass surveillance programs like PRISM, without meaningfully addressing any of the fundamental cyber security problems we face in the U.S.” Accordingly, Fight for the Future said it will abandon the Heroku cloud application platform within the next 90 days and encourages others to follow suit. The letter to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was posted on the site YouBetrayedUs.org.