Cambridge Analytica offers new defense of 2016 practices

A laptop showing the Facebook logo is held alongside a Cambridge Analytica sign at the entrance to the building housing the offices of Cambridge Analytica, in central London on March 21, 2018.

Washington (CNN)Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign-linked data firm under fire for sweeping collection of Facebook data, issued an expanded statement Thursday about its practices in the 2016 US presidential election.

In the statement, the firm reemphasized its claim that it "did not use Facebook data from research company GSR on the 2016 presidential election," a reference to Global Science Research, which gathered up data en masse on behalf of Strategic Communication Laboratories, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, according to a report in The Intercept last March.
Cambridge Analytica's statement said the Trump campaign hired it in June 2016, and from "August onwards," its data team used Republican National Committee voter files, polling, the Trump campaign itself, voting returns released by states and "consumer data available from commercial brokers."
The statement said Cambridge Analytica did not "have the opportunity to get into personality models," relied on "audience segments that Facebook and other online platforms make available to all advertisers" and did not use bots.
    The statement is unlikely to quell concerns about the group's actions and Facebook's role more generally in US elections and public discourse.
    As recently as Wednesday, Facebook continued to try to respond to the outpouring of criticism over its platform and announced it would shut down a tool known as "Partner Categories," which allows advertisers to target specific groups of users with the help of data gathered by outside groups.
    An investigation by The New York Times and British newspaper The Observer followed up on The Intercept's report and linked Facebook data collection to Cambridge Analytica's work in US politics.
    Facebook said in mid-March of this year that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica over concerns about violations of the site's policies, and the ensuing controversy, along with the statements of vocal whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who was a contractor for the UK-based data firm, and a series of undercover reports, has kept public scrutiny and political pressure on both Facebook and the firm.
    Cambridge Analytica initially said in response to the accusation it had violated Facebook's data policies that it had contracted with Global Science Research "to undertake a large scale research project in the United States," obtaining data and seeking "the informed consent of each respondent."
    The firm said once it "became clear" Global Science Research had obtained data from Facebook in violation of the social media site's policies, Cambridge Analytica deleted the data, and in the statement, the firm claimed it had not used any data from Global Science Research "as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign."
    In a series of undercover reports, leaders of Cambridge Analytica were recorded talking up their services, including now-suspended CEO Alexander Nix saying the company deserved a great deal of credit for Trump's victory.
    "We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting," Nix said. "We ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy."
    In its statement Thursday, Cambridge Analytica downplayed its impact on the election result.
    "Elections are won or lost by candidates, not data science," the statement read. "Data is important in modern campaigns for deciding how to allocate resources and for making advertising more efficient, but of course the candidate and their message ultimately needs to connect with the electorate."