NEW YORK – Cambridge Analytica, the Trump-affiliated data firm at the center of Facebook’s worst privacy scandal in history, is declaring bankruptcy and shutting down.
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.
Cambridge Analytica said it has filed papers to begin insolvency proceedings in the U.K. and will seek bankruptcy protection in a federal court in New York.
“The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers,” Cambridge Analytica said in a statement. “As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business.”
Cambridge Analytica has been linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The British firm suspended CEO Alexander Tayler in April amid investigations.
Cambridge Analytica sought information on Facebook to build psychological profiles on a large portion of the U.S. electorate. The company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an app that appeared to be a personality test. The app collected data on tens of millions of people and their Facebook friends, even those who did not download the app themselves.
Facebook has since tightened its privacy restrictions. Cambridge has denied wrongdoing, and Trump’s campaign has said it didn’t use Cambridge’s data.
The firm has said it is committed to helping the U.K. investigation into Facebook and how it uses data. But U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in March the firm failed to meet a deadline to produce the information requested.
Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorized way, adding that the data provisions act requires services like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.
IANS reported last month that Facebook has admitted that the data of nearly 560,000 Indian users may have been "improperly" shared with British political analytics company Cambridge Analytica (see India-West story here).
In a blog post, Mike Schroepfer, chief technology officer at Facebook, showed country-specific break-downs of people affected by the data breach.
While most users are from the U.S. – over 70 million – the data of 562,455 Indian Facebook users has also been shared with Cambridge Analytica.
"In total, we believe the Facebook information of up to 87 million people – mostly in the U.S. – may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica," Schroepfer wrote.
"Starting on Monday, April 9, we'll show people a link at the top of their News Feed so they can see what apps they use – and the information they have shared with those apps," he added.
People will also be able to remove apps they no longer want.
"As part of this process, we will also tell people if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica," Schroepfer posted.
In a press conference late April 4, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook must take responsibility for tackling fake news on its platform this year as several countries are facing general elections.
"This year is going to be an important year for protecting election integrity around the world. There's the Mexican presidential election, there are big elections in India and Brazil, as well as Pakistan and Hungary and a number of other countries, and the U.S. midterms, of course, too," he said.
Facebook now has about 15,000 people working on security and content review, and "we'll have more than 20,000 by the end of this year."
Facebook is also enhancing its security features to ensure the integrity of upcoming key elections in countries like India.