NEWS17 July 2018

Former Cambridge Analytica director opens new political consultancy

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UK – Two months on from the closure of Cambridge Analytica, a former director has launched a company called Auspex International, employing a number of the political consultancy’s staff.

Auspex homepage_crop

Founder Ahmad Al-Khatib joined Cambridge Analytica parent company Emerdata in January of this year, ahead of Cambridge Analytica’s closure amid allegations of the improper use of millions of Facebook users’ data for political purposes.

According to a press release, ‘geopolitical consultancy' Auspex International will focus on political, social and developmental campaigning for governments, political parties and NGOs, and will employ ‘behavioural science methods’ and data analytics as part of its approach.

Joining Al-Khatib in the new venture is Mark Turnbull, formerly managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s International Political division, who has been appointed as managing director. Also listed on the Companies House listing for the company but not named in the press release is chief operating officer Alastair Harris, who was campaign director at Cambridge Analytica from February to May 2018.

Cambridge Analytica closed its doors in May following media reports from the Observer in which the company was alleged to have improperly harvested the personal data of up to 87 million Facebook users, collected via a personality app ‘This Is Your Digital Life'. The company has consistently denied any wrongdoing and said that its employees acted lawfully, blaming a "siege of media coverage" for its closure.

On the launch of his new firm, Al-Khatib said: "I believe very strongly in the positive impact that ethically based, data-driven communications can have, particularly in the developing world where modern communications techniques can dramatically improve the lives of ordinary people. Aside from health campaigning, we also need to tackle the spread of extremist ideology which has poisoned my generation, preying on the minds of disenfranchised youth. We need to counter these messages of hate and violence."

He added that the business is "acutely aware of the issues surrounding the use of data" and claimed it has taken all necessary steps to be compliant "from day one".

Turnbull said: "We believe that consultancies such as ours have a responsibility to operate – and to be seen to operate – with integrity, however challenging the circumstances. Political campaigns take place in a complex world of moral hazard, and defy hard and fast rules, but they can and should be governed by principles and values."