Kenya One of the Countries Implicated in Cambridge Analytica Saga

Photo: This Day
Cambridge Analytica, a British company claiming that it worked for various election campaigns for African leaders, enhancing and tarnishing the image of individual leaders.

An undercover film that was broadcast on the United Kingdom's Channel 4 News about the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica confirmed that the company has worked on several high-profile elections, including Kenya's National Alliance and Jubilee presidential campaigns of 2013 and 2017.

British firm Cambridge Analytica has been accused of improperly using data from 50 million Facebook profiles to help leaders win elections. This includes Donald Trump and the 2016 US presidential election. Cambridge Analytica has allegedly worked on elections in Nigeria, the Czech Republic, Argentina and India in what has been described as "mass psychological warfare".

The managing director of Cambridge Analytica (CA), Mark Turnbull, also confirmed in the film that the company twice worked for the current Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta.

In a secretly recorded meeting in a London hotel, he said, "In the Kenyatta campaign, which we ran in 2013 and 2017, we rebranded the party twice, we wrote their manifesto, did two rounds of 50 000 surveys, huge amounts of analysis, research, messaging. Then we'd write all the speeches and we'd stage the whole thing; just about every element of his campaign."

Facebook has been rocked by the airing of the film as stakeholders and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic call for answers.

Initially, Facebook's deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal, appeared to defend their lax policies. In a statement he said: "Aleksandr Kogan requested and gained access to information from users who chose to sign up to his app, and everyone involved gave their consent."

But after days of outrage from the public, and calls for investigation and regulation from lawmakers in the US and UK, the company changed tactics, acknowledging that blaming users for not understanding its intricate terms of service was not acceptable.

Read: Facebook targets advertisers as it reaches 100 million African users

According to the Evening Standard, Facebook founder Zuckerberg has since claimed that Cambridge Analytica had in 2015 obtained Facebook user information without approval from the social media giant through the work the company did with a University of Cambridge psychology professor, Dr Aleksandr Kogan.

He went on to explain that even if Facebook immediately banned Prof Kogan's app and demanded that he and the firm delete the data, they found out recently that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had indicated.

Zuckerberg told CNN the site would be reviewing thousands of apps in an "intensive process".

"There are going to be some new tactics that we need to make sure that we observe and get in front of," he said. "This isn't rocket science. There's a lot of hard work we have to do to make it harder for nation states like Russia to do election interference."

Puppeteering in Kenya

The irony is that Cambridge Analytica had been fingered before this film aired. In fact, Hillary Clinton, in an interview with National Public Radio's Terry Gross in September 2017, said that Cambridge Analytica was involved in the Trump campaign. The company apparently promised to help him if he gave Kellyanne Conway and former campaign chief Steve Bannon positions in the White House.

"You know, the Kenya election was just overturned and, really, what's interesting about that -- and I hope somebody writes about it, Terry -- is that the Kenyan election was also a project of Cambridge Analytica, the data company owned by the Mercer family that was instrumental in the Brexit vote," she said, linking the annulled poll with the workings of the data company.

Privacy International, in a report published in December 2017, corroborated that Cambridge Analytica did discreetly work for President Kenyatta during his re-election campaign. They said that the firm "gathered survey data on Kenyans to aid the campaign and managed the president's image," Privacy International states, attributing its allegation to current and former Cambridge Analytica employees.

Acccording to the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation, Prof Makau Mutua, chairman of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), also tweeted late last year, before the repeat elections, warning Kenyans about the data firm's role in the Kenyan elections. "Is Cambridge Analytica, a DIRTY TRICKS big data LEVIATHAN, again working for Kenyatta in the fresh election? KENYANS must be VERY AFRAID," he tweeted.

Cambridge Analytica's response

In response to the film, Cambridge Analytica has said that Channel 4 "grossly misrepresented" the conversations caught on camera. "In playing along with this line of conversation, and partly to spare our 'client' from embarrassment, we entertained a series of ludicrous hypothetical scenarios," the company said in a statement. "Cambridge Analytica does not condone or engage in entrapment, bribes or so-called 'honey traps'," it said.

However, the company's CEO, Alexander Nix, has since been suspended.

The Cambridge Analytica revelations are the latest twist in the Kenyan political saga that seems unending, despite the fact that a finale might have been indicated by the recent co-operative stance taken by the two primary parties involved. Kenyans, and the rest of the world, will continue to watch with interest as events unfold.

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