SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, was set up in 2005. Led by two Old Etonians, Alex Nix and Nigel Oakes, its pitch was simple—help politicians win votes.
It also claimed the military could win hearts and minds.
In presentations to potential clients, it boasted of using “the science of influence and persuasion to help governments, their militaries and commercial companies to persuade key audience groups to measurably change their behaviour”.
The company quickly built up an impressive client list. They worked on projects for the British and US militaries and played a role in a number of election campaigns.
One ex-employee described staff “running around as though they were members of the security services”.
However real Facebook’s abuse of its users’ trust in giving its data to Cambridge Analytica, the company was hardly the master manipulator it claimed to be.
Cambridge Analytica’s “psychographic” techniques, supposedly able to profile voters’ deepest emotions, are mostly advertising hokum.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t ominous.
SCL worked for the US and British governments with its defence projects in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Mexico.
It secured work for lobbyists working for John Bolton, the new US national security adviser. They also worked for the Texas senator Ted Cruz’s failed presidential campaign.
According to US magazine Mother Jones, the company told the Cruz campaign that a powerful software tool named Ripon could help it target voters.
But that tool didn’t exist.
It also told the Ben Carson campaign that it was adept in TV advertising, but turned out to be inept. So bad that people thought the company was fake.
Even the Trump campaign chair—and probable money launderer—Paul Manafort once described it as “just full of shit, right?”
For once he was right.
Tory links to data thieves
Theresa May’s spokesman said last week that the government had stopped working with Cambridge Analytica's parent company, SCL Group, in 2015.
That wasn’t true.
The Ministry of Defence paid £42,000 to a branch of SCL for "data analytics" between December and February.
May's spokesman said last Wednesday that departments had had three contracts with SCL in the past. One was with the Foreign Office in 2008-09, another with the Home Office in 2009 and the final with the MoD in 2014-15.
The MoD confirmed it signed the recent contract with SCL Insight, an associated company which is 40 percent owned by SCL Group and 60 percent owned by Nigel Oakes, SCL Group's founder.
SCL had provisional List X accreditation until 2013. This granted it access to secret documents, and it had three previous official contracts with the department to provide analytics. In total, the MoD has paid SCL and its affiliated companies £347,000.
British officials were also trained by SCL in propaganda at Nato's Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Latvia in 2015.
SCL had a contract with the Home Office for a training project in 2009 and was paid by the Foreign Office for a "communications project" between 2008 and 2009.
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, had an undeclared meeting in December 2016 with Alexander Nix, the suspended chief executive of Cambridge Analytica. The Foreign Office said the meeting was not registered on transparency records "due to an oversight".
Cops gave workers' info to blacklisters
Undercover police officers infiltrated trade unions and fed information to the construction industry, which used it to blacklist construction workers, the cops finally admitted last week .
The Independent Office for Police Conduct yesterday said investigators had concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, the police had supplied information on the blacklist.
The illegal list, maintained by the Consulting Association, was active between at least 1993 and 2009.
As much as £250 million has been paid in compensation by some of Britain’s richest construction companies.
Dave Smith, secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, said that he had waited six years for the news,
Dave said, “People thought we were conspiracy theorists. The police are supposed to detect crime.
“Instead they infiltrated trade unions and provided intelligence to an unlawful corporate conspiracy.”
Activists storm out of spy cops inquiry
Campaigners and their legal team have walked out of the inquiry into undercover policing demanding that its chairman Sir John Mitting stand down.
Mitting has brought a vigour to his task, repeatedly ruling that the names of various cops mustn’t be revealed in order to protect their privacy.
Over 200 of the participants, including Doreen and Neville Lawrence, women activists who were deceived into relationships with undercover cops, anti-racist campaigners and trade unionists withdrew from the inquiry.
The campaigners have repeatedly raised concerns about cops being granted anonymity.
Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, said, “I want to know the names of the police officers who spied on me, my family and our campaign for justice. The chair is not allowing that.”
Cash for consultancy
A Tory council paid almost £1 million to a consultancy owned by its former chief executive.
Northamptonshire county council gave £931,364 over five years to DDL consulting, owned by Damon Lawrenson. He left the council last week.
He had been its acting chief since November on £1,000 a day. The council passed a £40 million package of cuts this month.
Some Lib Dems don't like being Lib Dems
The Liberal Democrats sent a questionnaire to members that asked if they enjoyed being, well, Liberal Democrats.
Now the results have been revealed and it seems 80 percent of members are thrilled, although 1 percent don’t enjoy being party members and 19 percent aren’t really sure.