KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 — Behavioural research company SCL Group denied today a report claiming that Barisan Nasional (BN) was using its “big data” services for the upcoming 14th general elections.
SCL’s South-east Asia head Azrin Zizal said his company — which, according to its website, uses “advanced data analytics” to identify voters — has not done any election work in Malaysia before and that local political parties have yet to engage it for the next general elections.
“We are new to the region,” Azrin, whose office is in Kuala Lumpur, told Malay Mail Online.
“At the moment, we spend most time meeting people to introduce our range of services and expertise. We hope to start building local expertise, especially in the area of data analytics soon.
“We speak to everyone who has a need for data-driven strategies and those businesses that have an appetite towards expanding into the US or Europe. Those that we speak to includes banks, GLCs (government-linked corporations), as well as research firms where we can add value to their own range of expertise,” he added.
In a report Friday, London-based whistleblowing site Sarawak Report claimed that the ruling BN was employing controversial and expensive “big data” tactics to swing voters in the next election.
SCL’s offshoot, Cambridge Analytica, has reportedly claimed to have helped Donald Trump win the US presidency by collecting huge amounts of personal data on voters, from basic details to the TV programmes they watch or food they eat, to determine their personalities, or “psychographic” profiles.
SCL’s website claims that it has a “formidable track record” in delivering electoral success, providing services such as “behavioural microtargeting” in which “advanced data analytics” is used to identify voters who share demographics, political beliefs and lifestyle so that unique messages can be designed to appeal to them.
The UK-based company also does communications work in commercial, social and defence fields.
In a report last month, UK paper The Guardian cited propaganda specialist Emma Briant as saying in her 2015 book that SCL specialised in changing the behaviour of large groups.
Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a Swiss mathematician and data activist who has reportedly been investigating Cambridge Analytica and SCL for more than a year, told The Guardian that Cambridge Analytica’s purported database on the American electorate was “potentially very scary,” questioning if the information could be used to manipulate people or to foment conflict between communities.