KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — Putrajaya and ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) said today they had never engaged controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica’s (CA) services in 13th general elections.
In a statement to the media, the Prime Minister’s Office stated that a representative from CA’s parent company SCL Group earlier confirmed that it had personally provided its advice to then-Kedah Umno chief and now Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) deputy president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.
“Neither Cambridge Analytica nor its parent company SCL Group have ever — now or in the past — been contracted, employed or paid in any way by Barisan Nasional, the Prime Minister’s Office or any part of the Government of Malaysia,” the statement read.
“The SCL representative also confirmed that he reported directly to Mukhriz Mahathir, not BN or the Government,” it said.
Earlier today, Mukhriz had denied working with CA in the previous polls.
However, Mukhriz admitted that he personally knows SCL Group’s South-east Asia head, Azrin Zizal, who was his former press officer when he served as international trade and industry deputy minister from 2009 to 2013.
Azrin had earlier refused to comment on the matter when queried by Malay Mail.
CA claimed to have supported the BN Kedah campaign during the 2013 general election with a “targeted messaging campaign” highlighting school improvements since 2008.
The election saw a swing back to BN’s favour with a landslide victory in which 21 out of 36 state seats and 10 out of 15 parliamentary seats returned to the ruling coalition’s hands.
Mukhriz was appointed the mentri besar following the victory; however, he resigned from the post on February 3, 2016 after the Regency council told him that he had lost the support of the majority in the state legislative assembly.
CA came under pressure after The New York Times and The Guardian newspapers reported that the company had used data obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users without their permission.
The social media platform suspended the firm and hired forensic auditors yesterday to find out if CA had misused the data.
The company’s website lists five office locations in New York, Washington, London, Brazil and Malaysia.