Canadian at centre of Facebook data scandal cut political teeth with Liberals


OTTAWA — The Canadian whistleblower at the centre of an international scandal that saw a firm help the Trump campaign capitalize politically from private Facebook information got his start in politics with the Liberal Party of Canada.

Reports by The New York Times and The Observer of London say U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign hired a data-analytics company that harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users.

The data expert who spoke out about controversy helped found the company behind the leak — he’s a 28-year-old Canadian named Christopher Wylie.

One of the reports says at age 17, Wylie worked in the office of Canada’s opposition leader, who at that time was then-Liberal leader Stephane Dion.

The report also says that when he was 18, he learned all about data while working for officials on former U.S. president Barack Obama’s campaign team, and later introduced one director to the Liberals.

A senior source with the Liberal party says Wylie last worked for the party less than a decade ago, before Justin Trudeau became leader, and was also previously involved in its youth commission.

The newspaper reports say the firm Cambridge Analytica exploited private social media activity to help allow the Trump campaign to better target voters by profiling their behaviour and personalities ahead of the U.S. election.

“I do feel responsible for it and it’s something that I regret,” Wylie says in a video interview posted on The Observer’s web page.

“It was a grossly unethical experiment because you are playing with an entire country, the psychology of an entire country, without their consent or awareness.”

The reports say Cambridge Analytica also played a major role in the referendum that led to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

Another article published May 2017 by The Guardian quoted a source that connected Wylie to a web analytics company in Victoria, B.C., called AggregateIQ. The firm has come under investigation for its possible role in helping Britain’s Leave campaign.

The Canadian Press