Cambridge Analytica: Facebook data-harvest firm to shut

Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy at the centre of the Facebook data-sharing scandal, is shutting down.

Cambridge Analytica, Facebook data-harvest firm, shut

Cambridge Analytica's name has already been taken down from the wall of the London office it occupied -- Photo: REUTERS


The firm was accused of improperly obtaining personal information on behalf of political clients.

According to Facebook, data about up to 87 million of its members was harvested by a quiz app and then passed on to the political consultancy.

The social network said its own probe into the matter would continue.

"This doesn't change our commitment and determination to understand exactly what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again," said a spokesman.

"We are continuing with our investigation in cooperation with the relevant authorities."

What are the accusations against Cambridge Analytica?

The company has been accused of using the personal data of millions of Facebook users to sway the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum.

In March, Channel 4 aired undercover footage of Cambridge Analytica's CEO, Alexander Nix, giving examples of how the firm could swing elections around the world with underhand tactics such as smear campaigns and honey traps.

The UK-based company, which denies any wrongdoing, has an extensive record of working abroad on many election campaigns, including in Italy, Kenya and Nigeria.

Why does it say it is shutting?

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for Cambridge Analytica, referred the BBC to a statement on the firm's website.

"Over the past several months, Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of numerous unfounded accusations and, despite the company's efforts to correct the record, has been vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas," it said.

"Despite Cambridge Analytica's unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully... the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company's customers and suppliers.

"As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business."

The statement added that its parent company SCL Elections was also commencing bankruptcy proceedings.

Is this the end?

The UK's Financial Times newspaper says it has spoken to another ex-employee of Cambridge Analytica, on condition of anonymity, who said they were sure the company would emerge "in some other incarnation or guise".

The Observer journalist whose investigation first exposed the data privacy scandal has suggested that the public remain sceptical.

The chair of a UK parliament committee investigating the firm's activities also raised concerns about Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections' move.

"They are party to very serious investigations and those investigations cannot be impeded by the closure of these companies," said Damian Collins MP.

"I think it's absolutely vital that the closure of these companies is not used as an excuse to try and limit or restrict the ability of the authorities to investigate what they were doing."

What action had it taken already?

Cambridge Analytica's chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended in March after the Channel 4 News footage was aired.

Last month, Cambridge Analytica said it had only licensed 30 million recordsbelonging to US citizens from the quiz app's creator Dr Aleksandr Kogan, and that they had not been used in the US presidential election.

The firm added that it had since deleted all the information despite claims to the contrary by others.

Who funded Cambridge Analytica?

One of Cambridge Analytica's major investors is the US hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer.

He is said to have put $15m (£11m) into the business, according to the Guardian.

Mr Mercer, a former computer scientist, is also a major donor to the US Republican Party and helped support Donald Trump's election campaign.

He has never given an interview about his political views and is not thought to have commented publicly about the data-harvesting scandal.

Source: BBC

Cambridge Analytica, Facebook data-harvest firm, shut
 
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