Cambridge Analytica, the data company at the very centre of Facebook’s privacy scandal, has announced it is shutting down with immediate effect and will begin bankruptcy proceedings.

In a statement, Cambridge Analytica says it has been “vilified” for actions it says are both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising. The firm says the media furore stripped it of its customers and suppliers, forcing it to close.

A former Cambridge Analytica employee has spoken out about the misuse of Facebook data. Here’s what happened and how it connects to the Trump campaign.
Cambridge Analytica sought information on Facebook to build psychological profiles on a large portion of the US electorate and was hired by President Donald Trump’s 2016 US election campaign.

The company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an app that appeared to be a personality test.

The app collected data on 87 million Facebook users, even those who did not download the app themselves. Facebook has since tightened its privacy restrictions.

“As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business, which left Cambridge Analytica with no realistic alternative to placing the company into administration.”

Cambridge Analytica was created in 2013 initially with a focus on US elections, with $US15 million ($20 million) in backing from billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer and a name chosen by future Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, The New York Times reported.

It marketed itself as providing consumer research, targeted advertising and other data-related services to both political and corporate clients.

The company has denied any wrongdoing, and Mr Trump’s campaign has said it did not use Cambridge’s data.

The firm has said it is committed to helping the UK investigation into Facebook and how it uses data.

But UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in March the firm failed to meet a deadline to produce the information requested.

Ms Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorised way, adding that the data provisions act requires services like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.

Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm SCL Elections Ltd, a government and military contractor that says it works on everything from food security research to counter-narcotics to political campaigns, will also shut down.

 

AP/Reuters