Cambridge Analytica, the data firm at the centre of this year’s Facebook privacy row, is closing and starting insolvency proceedings.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.Cambridge Analytica denies any wrongdoing, but says that the negative media coverage has left it with no clients and mounting legal fees.
“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.The Guardian rang the doorbell to the company’s seventh-floor office and was met by a woman who would not give her name but said she did not work for the company.Asked if anyone from Cambridge Analytica or SCL was still inside, she said: “They used to be. But they all left today.”
The scandal centres around data collected from Facebook users via a personality app developed by the Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan. The data was collected via Facebook’s permissive “Graph API”, the interface through which third parties could interact with Facebook’s platform. This allowed Kogan to pull data about users and their friends, including likes, activities, check-ins, location, photos, religion, politics and relationship details. He passed the data to Cambridge Analytica, in breach of Facebook’s platform policies.Christopher Wylie, the original Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, told the Observer that the data Kogan obtained 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 Kogan data.