May 2 (UPI) — Cambridge Analytica announced Wednesday it is shutting down amid accusations the data-mining firm improperly accessed data from millions of Facebook users.
The British-based company and its affiliate, SCL Elections, are filing insolvency proceedings in Britain and bankruptcy proceedings in the United States.
Cambridge Analytica said a “siege of media coverage” of its dealings with Facebook has driven away customers, leaving the business no longer viable. It said reports about how it obtained and used Facebook user data were unfounded.
“Despite the company’s efforts to correct the record, [it] 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.
Cambridge University academic Aleksandr Kogan and his company Global Science Research used the quiz app “This Is Your Digital Life” to gather data on 270,000 users — and the users’ friends, who did not participate in the quiz — which it then shared with Cambridge Analytica in 2015. The company used the demographic information from 87 million Facebook users to target political advertising.
In March, whistleblower and Cambridge Analytica co-founder Christopher Wylie revealed the company was holding onto user data without their consent even after Facebook told the company to delete it. Wylie said the company was initially funded by billionaire Robert Mercer and his boss was former Breitbart founder and White House adviser Steve Bannon.
Wylie said leadership at Cambridge Analytica wanted to fight a “culture war.”
“Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair,” he said. “They want to fight a culture war in America.”
“Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”
Wylie said he used coding to execute Bannon and Mercer’s idea to combine big data and social media to target Facebook users based on psychological profiles.
On March 20, Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO Alexander Nix and said it was investigating comments Nix made in an undercover recording. He said the company could secretly compromise political rivals by arranging smear campaigns, setting up encounters with prostitutes and staging bribery situations.
Counsel Julian Malins, who conducted Cambridge Analytica’s internal investigation, said allegations against the firm were not “borne out by the facts.”
“I had full access to all members of staff and documents in the preparation of my report,” Malins said. “My findings entirely reflect the amazement of the staff, on watching the television programmes and reading the sensationalistic reporting, that any of these media outlets could have been talking about the company for which they worked. Nothing of what they heard or read resonated with what they actually did for a living.”
President Donald Trump’s campaign used the services of Cambridge Analytica for the 2016 presidential election.