Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm at the heart of recent Facebook data scandals, is shutting down, blaming accusations that it misused personal data for frightening off the company’s customers. In addition to beginning insolvency proceedings in the UK, Cambridge Analytica says it will be beginning bankruptcy proceedings for its US businesses, too.
Although established in 2013, it was only in March of this year that Cambridge Analytica became more broadly known. The company was accused of having used an extensive cache of personal information for hundreds of thousands of Facebook users, that had been extracted from the site via an earlier, more permissive version of its third-party developer APIs. That data, it was alleged, was used in campaigns both in the US, for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and in the UK, for pro-Brexit campaigners.
Facebook alleged it had been given commitments by Cambridge Analytica that the contentious data had been deleted. The consulting firm, meanwhile, insisted that it had not used the personal information for its political analysis. All the same, ongoing investigations – including undercover filming which appeared to show chief executive Alexander Nix suggesting entrapment-style methods – continued to cast a shadow on its operations.
That shadow, it seems, has finally taken its toll. According to a statement today, “the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers” and as such a shut-down is the only viable route forward.
Still, it’s not going down without complaint. “Over the past several months,” the company said in a statement today, “Cambridge Analytica 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.”
Indeed, a newly-published report, which Cambridge Analytica commissioned from Queen’s Counsel Julian Malins, concurs with the firm’s defense. Malins says he believes the allegations were not “borne out by the facts.”
Whether or not that was actually the case, it’s clear that Cambridge Analytica’s clients weren’t confident in continuing to work with the company. Having had around $15m in political work in the US alone during the 2016 election cycle, it has reportedly seen no interest since that point.