Cambridge Analytica planned to target South African elections_1

The Twitter account, Hindsight Files, shared documents on behalf of Brittany Kaiser, a former business development director of data company Cambridge Analytica.

The files highlight the ways in which Cambridge Analytica swayed elections in Brazil, Kenya, and Malaysia. It has now come to light that the firm had plans to target South Africa as well.

According to a press release, the files “will provide the public with new details of [the Cambridge Analytica scandal] and the company’s role in elections an other large-scale data mining operations around the world.”

The Cambridge Analytica scandal

Cambridge Analytica collapsed back in 2018 after details of its misuse of Facebook data were proven to have influenced voting in the UK Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election campaign.

However, the biggest shocks are yet come. Hindsight Files vowed that more than 100 000 documents will be released over the coming months, detailing the ways in which the firm targeted voters.

Kaiser’s leaks include project plans, case studies, negotiations, previously unreleased e-mail correspondence and specific details of political strategies, spanning more than 65 countries.

“Over the past two years I have given evidence to investigators, journalists and academics to analyse what happened at Cambridge Analytica, and how our data was used to influence democracies around the world. In the name of shedding light on these dark practices, I am releasing documents and e-mails in full for the public good”. Britanny Kaiser

Cambridge Analytica and South Africa

One of the files contains an e-mail from the MD of SCL Elections, Mark Turnbull, sent to Kaiser. The e-mail was dated 15 June, with the subject line, “FW: data analytics”.

As reported by Dispatch Live, Turnbull mentions in the mail that South Africa’s 2019 elections are “a long way off but definitely on my radar”. Part of the e-mail read:

“A really useful run through of target prospects, to be continued and updated. Let’s stay poised to strike the hot prospects (for example Zambia) when they present themselves, and weigh costs/benefits on a case-by-case basis.We need to be selective and cost-conscious, of course, but not let promising opportunities slip through our fingers for want of being there. It might be helpful if we construct our own checklist to assist in the go/no go decision for any prospective target … so that we can ‘score’ any given opportunity and demonstrate rigour in our assessment.”

Cambridge Analytica in Kenya and Zambia

Kenya and Zambia were also targeted, with Turnbull informing Kaiser on 17 June 2016 that “Zambia is a go”.

The firm also played a part in Kenya’s 2013 and 2017 elections. In a mail sent to director of sales Robert Murtfield, Kenya is described as “one of our biggest contracts”.

“Yes hi Robert, you must remember we cannot talk about our work in Kenya to other Kenyans (or people who could get this back to them). If it got back to the Kenyatta team [referring to President Uhuru Kenyatta] that we were telling others about our work it would potentially endanger one of our biggest contracts.”

Documents pertaining to Kenya’s elections, dated between 2012 and 2017, can be downloaded via this tweet on the Hindsight Files account.

Cambridge Analytica’s other targets

Brazil: Hindsight Files shared files pertaining to elections in Brazil; the documents included in the download are dated between 2015 and 2018. The download link can be accessed via this tweet on Hindsight Files.

Malaysia: The firm was also involved in secret operations and data collection in Malaysia to “enhance public perception of both national oil company Petronas and government, as both parties had the same interests.”

The first batch of the Merdeka Papers was released in 2018, and the rest can be downloaded from the link included in this tweet, posted by Hindsight Files on 2 January 2019.

Hindsight Files also shared information about Ghana and Iran, and promised that they’re “only getting started”. Download link for documents pertaining to Ghana and Iran can be found in this tweet.

Who is Britanny Kaiser

Kaiser worked for SCL Group, a parent company of Cambridge Analytica, from 2015 to 2018 and fled to Thailand when the firm collapsed. She began the Own Your Data campaign in 2018.

In addition, Kaiser also appeared on the Great Hack documentary. Her book, Targeted: My Inside Story of Cambridge Analytica and How Trump and Facebook Broke Democracy, was published the following year.

Watch: The Cambridge Analytica scandal explained