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Cambridge Analytica is shutting down following Facebook user data scandal

The company has been implicated in two of the most controversial political stories on both sides of the Atlantic

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Wednesday 02 May 2018 19:06 BST
Mark Zuckerberg admits ‘my mistake’ as 87m Facebook users could have seen data accessed by Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm at the centre of a storm around misuse of Facebook user data, is shutting down and has filed for bankruptcy

“The Company is immediately ceasing all operations” and has filed applications to begin insolvency proceedings in the UK, Cambridge Analytica said in a statement.

The statement also pushed back against widespread allegations that the company had improperly obtained Facebook user data to craft targeted advertisements, saying it “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”.

The company, which was retained by Donald Trump's presidential campaign, has come under tremendous pressure after it was revealed to have obtained data associated with up to 87 million Facebook users.

Seeking to contain a spiralling crisis, Facebook executives have repeatedly faulted Cambridge Analytica and researcher Aleksander Kogan for the data transfer. The company says Mr Kogan harvested data from a survey app and then passed it along to Cambridge Analytica, which did not destroy the data despite having claimed to do so.

Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica soon after reports revealed the consulting firm had obtained a vast repository of user data.

That same week, auditors retained by Facebook stood down as officers from UK’s information regulator raided Cambridge Analytica’s London offices.

Political scrutiny of Cambridge Analytica spread to both sides of the Atlantic, with whistleblower Christopher Wylie alleging that a Canadian business tied to Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL Group, AggregateIQ, worked for the official pro-Brexit campaign.

UK politicians have published documents showing that Cambridge Analytica had a tentative agreement to work with pro-Brexit group Leave.EU, and a former Cambridge Analytica employee told The Guardian that the company had partnered with the campaign.

Former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix denied a connection, telling a House of Commons committee that they “did no paid or unpaid work” for Leave.EU and “did not work on the EU referendum with that organisation or any other organisation”.

Cambridge Analytica spokesman Clarence Mitchell last week sought to rebut what he called a “torrent of ill-informed and inaccurate speculation” that has swirled around the firm, saying the company “takes its data protection responsibilities very seriously”.

“Cambridge Analytica did not harvest or somehow steal or amass this data,” Mr Mitchell said, and once Facebook informed them Mr Kogan may have improperly obtained some data, the company “immediately set about deleting all the disputed data from its servers”.

He also discounted the suggestion that the data helped Cambridge Analytica craft personalised advertisements based on personality features, calling it “virtually useless in that it was just above random guessing in statistical terms”.

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