Cambridge Analytica closing after Facebook data harvesting scandal

The data firm said it was closing due to 'unfairly negative media coverage' for actions which it says were both legal and accepted as part of online advertising

Cambridge Analytica, the data firm at the centre of Facebook’s worst privacy scandal, is closing and starting insolvency proceedings.

The London firm blamed “unfairly negative media coverage” and said it has been “vilified” for actions it says are both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising.

The company has been plagued by scandal since the Observer reported that the personal data of about 50 million Americans and at least a million Britons had been harvested from Facebook and improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

 “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,” said the company in a statement, which also revealed that SCL Elections Ltd, the UK entity affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, would also close and start insolvency proceedings.

“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.”

As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the company has started insolvency proceedings in the US and UK. At Cambridge Analytica’s New York offices on an upmarket block on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, it appeared all the staff had already left the premises.

Facebook said it will keep looking into data misuse by Cambridge Analytica even though the firm is closing down. And Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, a digital advocacy group in Washington, said criticisms of Facebook's privacy practices won't go away just because Cambridge Analytica has.

Cambridge Analytica, whose clients included Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, sought information on Facebook users to build psychological profiles on a large portion of the U.S. electorate.

Christopher Wylie, the original Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, told the Observer that the data obtained from users was used to influence the outcome of the US presidential election and Brexit. According to Wylie the data was fed into software that profiles voters and tries to target them with personalised political advertisements. Cambridge Analytica insists it never incorporated the data.

The CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, was suspended in late March after Britain’s Channel 4 News broadcast secret recordings in which he claimed credit for the election of Donald Trump.

He told an undercover reporter: “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.”

More in World

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition

Subscribe