Cambridge Analytica to Shut Down, Possibly Retool

Technology

Controversial data research firm Cambridge Analytica announced it was shutting its doors this week. The company uses psychometrics, the study of human characteristics to predict human behavior. It’s best known for harvesting the personal information of some 87 million Facebook users, unbeknownst to them, and allegedly using that information to sway votes in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

The company worked for the Donald Trump campaign briefly during the late summer and fall of 2016.

In response to the breach Facebook shut the company’s Facebook account down. Facebook faced harsh criticism for the way it handled the breach – it failed to notify its users of the breach and to follow up with Cambridge to confirm that the data had been deleted as requested.

An undercover investigation by British news outlet BBC revealed that Strategic Communications Laboratories, Cambridge’s parent company, bragged about interference-tactics in foreign elections in promotional materials published by the company.

The London-based SCL, organized rallies and engaged in political espionage in Nigeria, Latvia and Trinidad and Tobago among other places since the 2000s, according to those materials.

In the face of heightened media scrutiny Cambridge Analytica, as well as SCL, found it nearly impossible to survive.

“Over the past several months, 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,” the company said in a statement announcing cessation of its operations.

“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.”

SCL announced an immediate shutdown and the liquidation of its businesses on Wednesday. Cambridge and SCL have offices in London, New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

There is evidence that the firm has already re-launched under a different name. The UK’s official registrar of companies and organizations, lists a company called Emerdata Limited located at the same offices occupied by SCL in London, and the firm is run by much of the same leadership that ran Cambridge Analytica.

Records show that Emerdata was founded in mid-2017 and has increased business operations since the public relations firestorm erupted around Cambridge earlier this year.

Photo by ThoughtCatalog via Flickr

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