Not Entirely Clear

The House of Commons.
The House of Commons.

Before we start circling around the question posed by the headline, let’s be clear: At the moment, no one — well, no one not protected by parliamentary privilege — is directly accusing any one particular witness of having been less than truthful in testifying before a Commons committee.

With that caveat firmly in place, however, it’s fair to say that there do appear to be… unresolved inconsistencies between what AggregateIQ CEO Zackary Massingham and co-founder Jeff Silvester told the Commons privacy committee about their ties to Cambridge Analytica — the now-shuttered UK data mining firm at the centre of a global controversy over the unauthorized use of private Facebook data — and what that same committee has heard from other witnesses.

Testifying via video link from London last month, former AggregateIQ staffer turned whistleblower Christopher Wylie described AggregateIQ’s assertion that “all [they] do is just click some demographic on Facebook Ads Manager as “farcical,” and just last week, e-security expert Chris Vickery advised the committee that he had uncovered electronic evidence that, he said, suggested that “it was a lie” for the company “to say they haven’t harvested data.”

Even before the committee had heard from Wylie and Vickery, several of its members were openly expressing skepticism over AggregateIQ’s claims.

Speaking with reporters after the pair’s appearance, committee chair Bob Zimmer said that AggregateIQ “has a lot to answer for,” adding that “there are many testimonies that are pointing in one direction and it seems like they’re the only one differing from that opinion.”

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus was even more blunt: “We couldn’t even get the decency of an honest answer,” he complained.


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