21 March 2018

Kenya: Your Guide to Cambridge Analytica Kenya Poll Scandal

An undercover investigation by Britain's Channel 4 News has kicked off a storm after it emerged that digital marketing data firm Cambridge Analytica may have played a role in Kenyan, Nigerian, US elections and Brexit.

Here are key facts on the unfolding political scandal that has shocked the world:

When was Cambridge Analytica set up?

Cambridge Analytica is a political consultancy firm and data mining company founded in 2013 as a sister company to the SCL Group, a military consultancy firm, which is about 25 years old.

Who owns Cambridge Analytica?

Robert Mercer, tech-savvy, hedge-fund billionaire, computer scientist and an early adopter of artificial intelligence. Mercer, who also owns the SCL Group, is a well-connected Republican donor who is friends with among many others, British politician and leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

Interesting to note is the fact that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is the former vice-president of Cambridge Analytica.

Also, Kellyanne Conway, President Trump's counsellor, once consulted for the firm.

What does Cambridge Analytica do?

According to the official website, the company uses data to "change audience behaviour".

It works with various politicians to create political strategies.

On Twitter, the company says it deals with data and "behavioural micro-targeting."

However, in a recent investigative feature by British television Channel 4, top company officials were secretly recorded saying they employs other underhand tactics.

Dirty tricks such as baiting politicians with prostitutes and bribes and recording the encounters to blackmail competitors are among other tactics used by the company.

Who are Cambridge Analytica's clients?

Politicians generally.

CA claims responsibility for Donald Trump's shock win in November 2016.

The company says it also worked with British politician Nigel Farage during the British Brexit, and American Politician Ted Cruz.

Where does Kenya come in?

Cambridge Analytica has claimed to have worked with President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2013 and 2017 elections.

According to the exposé on Channel 4, the company's Managing Director Mark Turnbull was recorded saying that the company rebranded both The National Alliance and Jubilee parties, conducted research on behalf of the Kenyatta campaign and wrote Jubilee's manifestos and speeches.

So what's the fuss all about?

Cambridge Analytica has been accused of obtaining data and psychological profiles of over 50 million Facebook users through an app that was developed by British scholar Aleksandar Kogan.

Kogan, after developing the app, informed Facebook that the data would be for purely academic purposes, and over 270,000 Facebook users downloaded the app.

The application then collected data from the users and their Facebook friends, mining over 50 million Facebook records, and then handed it over to Cambridge Analytica.

According to Facebook, once they discovered what had happened, they deleted the data, but investigative reports by the international media suggest otherwise.

What is the latest development?

Over the weekend, Facebook announced that it had suspended Cambridge Analytica and asked its officials to cooperate in an audit.

However, the audit has been called off by the UK Information Commissioner's Office, the UK's main data protection office, which wants to conduct its own investigation.

Following the scandal, Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, was suspended by the board on Tuesday, "pending a full, independent investigation".

The board, in a statement, further disowned the dirty tactics revealed in the exposé, suggesting that those allegations "don not represent the values or operations of the firm."

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