Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL have announced that they are shutting down operations. The company blames a “siege of media coverage” for the closure saying that it has driven its customers away. Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based data firm, was part of a huge data scandal at Facebook. The company has been under intense scrutiny from authorities in various countries including the US, the UK, Australia etc.
SCL released a surprise statement on Wednesday confirming the closure. The UK data firm also added that it will file for bankruptcy as soon as possible. Cambridge Analytica worked very closely with the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Part of the job was to post targeted political ads for the then-candidate Donald Trump.
Facebook admitted that Cambridge Analytica had accessed and inappropriately used the data of over 87 million users on its platform. The data firm also had connections with Steve Bannon, former chief executive of Trump’s election campaign. Bannon is said to have played an important role in launching the data firm.
It’s still not clear whether this will be the last that we will hear of Cambridge Analytica. However, according to paperwork filed with UK authorities, it’s emerging that many of Cambridge Analytica top executives already have a plan to staff up a separate data firm that will have a new name. The new data-gathering company is called Emerdata. Rebekah Mercer and her sister Jennifer, executives from Cambridge Analytica, have already been appointed as board members in the new company. Mercer established herself as the company’s director in filings with UK authorities and her listed address is 597 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. This is the address of Cambridge Analytica New York office.
In addition to this, Alexander Nix, the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, was appointed as the director of Emerdata back in February. This was just before the Facebook data scandal broke. However, Nix was terminated the same day the Facebook data scandal came to light. Another senior executive from Cambridge Analytica, Julian Wheatland, was also appointed as the director of Emerdata on March 19.
Wheatland conducted phone calls with staffers in the US relaying Cambridge Analytica’s decision to shut down its operations.
The US staffers were told that the company’s reputation has been damaged based on what Wheatland called “unfounded accusations.” The statement released on Wednesday also noted that Cambridge Analytica had been “vilified unfairly” for activities that were legal and widely accepted as a standard part of online advertising. SCL also confirmed that it had created a new website called CambridgeFacts.com in order to tell its own story of what actually happened.
Cambridge Analytica first came to light after an undercover report by The Guardian and TV station Channel 4. The company was accused of inappropriately harvesting and using Facebook user data. This is an accusation that the UK data firm has always denied.