Agencies: Cambridge Analytica, the UK-based political consulting firm in the middle of the Facebook data breach scandal, has announced that it is shutting down. The company denies any wrongdoing, but says that the negative media coverage has left it with no clients and mounting legal fees which has forced it to resort to closure.
The decision follows weeks of intense pressure on the company, hired by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, after allegations emerged it may have hijacked up to 87 million Facebook users’ data. It claimed it has been “vilified” by the “numerous unfounded accusations” which torpedoed its business and left the firm with “no realistic alternative” but to go into administration.
“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,” it said in a statement. “As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business.”
The company said its parent company, SCL Elections, would also commence bankruptcy proceedings. This could impact its Indian operations as well. The firm drew attention after former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly once sat on its board and was bankrolled to the tune of $15 million (12.5 million euros)by US billionaire and Republican donor Robert Mercer.
It first became embroiled in scandal in March when Canadian whistleblower Christopher Wylie, a 28-year-old former analyst for the firm, revealed it had created psychological profiles of tens of millions of Facebook users via a personality prediction app.
The revelations instantly reverberated around the world, wiping billions from the social media giant’s market value and drawing scrutiny from politicians and regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. To make matters worse for CA, CEO Alexander Nix was suspended within days after he was filmed by undercover reporters bragging about ways to win political campaigns, including through blackmail and honey traps.
As the crisis intensified, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg was forced to apologise to its billions of users amid a small but growing exodus from the site. He eventually appeared before Congress for a two-day grilling by lawmakers, and has since vowed to overhaul the way the Facebook shares its users’ data. In Britain, regulators ratcheted up a probe into CA, raiding its London offices, and later extending the investigation to 30 organisations, including Facebook.