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Cambridge Analytica, data consultant for Trump campaign and others, suspends CEO amid federal probe of its use of Facebook data

Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended Tuesday.
Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended Tuesday. (Joshua Bright for The Washington Post/Credit: Joshua Bright for The Washington Post)
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Cambridge Analytica, a data science company that worked for President Trump’s campaign, announced Tuesday that it has suspended chief executive Alexander Nix after a British television station aired secretly recorded video that appeared to show him talking about entrapment as a way to win campaigns.

The firm has also been the subject of reports in recent days that the company improperly accessed the data of tens of millions of Facebook users. The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Facebook to determine whether the use of the data violated privacy protections.

In a statement, the company’s board said Nix’s secretly recorded comments “do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.”

An independent investigation will begin immediately, the company said.

Facebook's actions and public statements are facing inquiries from several federal agencies regarding the mishandling of millions of users' personal data. (Video: Elyse Samuels, Patrick Martin/The Washington Post, Photo: Jeff Chiu/The Washington Post)

In footage aired by Britain’s Channel 4 News, Nix is shown and heard talking to a person who he apparently believed represented a Sri Lankan family that wanted to influence elections.

In selling his firm’s prowess, Nix said the company could arrange for a secretly recorded effort to offer a political opponent “a deal that’s too good to be true, and make sure that that’s video-recorded.” Nix was also shown suggesting that the company could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house — we have a history of things.”

Channel 4’s videos include a series of meetings at London hotels over four months between November 2017 and January 2018. The videos at times include Nix as well as Mark Turnbull, the managing director of Cambridge Analytica Political Global, and Alex Tayler, the chief data officer.

There was no indication in those recordings that such activity was performed for the Trump campaign, but the secret recordings raised questions about the ethics of a company that has said it played an integral role in Trump’s 2016 electoral victory.

Cambridge Analytica was financed by hedge fund executive Robert Mercer, a major Trump supporter. Its vice president until August 2016 was Stephen K. Bannon, who served as Trump’s chief strategist in the final months of his campaign and later in the White House.

At one point in the Channel 4 video, executives at Cambridge Analytica appear to boast about their efforts to aid Trump, referencing one ad campaign — called “Defeat Crooked Hillary” and launched by a super PAC — that Channel 4 said had gone viral online.