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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Cambridge Analytica closure ‘won’t stop probe’

The firm announced on Wednesday it is shutting down after the Facebook scandal

Cambridge Analytica said it was shutting down immediately after suffering a sharp drop in business. Alastair Grant / AP Photo
Cambridge Analytica said it was shutting down immediately after suffering a sharp drop in business. Alastair Grant / AP Photo

The investigation into Cambridge Analytica’s handling of millions of people’s data won’t stop despite the company going out of business, British authorities said.

Cambridge Analytica announced on Wednesday that it was filing for bankruptcy following allegations that it improperly harvested data from millions of Facebook users. The firm says bad publicity drove potential clients away.

After the announcement, Britain's data regulator said it would continue civil and criminal investigations of the firm and will pursue "individuals and directors as appropriate" despite the shutdown.

"We will also monitor closely any successor companies using our powers to audit and inspect, to ensure the public is safeguarded," a spokesperson from the Information Commissioner's Office said.

Damian Collins, chair of a parliamentary committee that has been looking into the Facebook scandal, tweeted: "Cambridge Analytica and [parent company] SCL Group cannot be allowed to delete their data history by closing. The investigations into their work are vital."

In a statement on Wednesday, the political consultancy said it was shutting down immediately after suffering a sharp drop in business.

The company will begin bankruptcy proceedings, it said, after losing clients and facing mounting legal fees resulting from the scandal over reports the company harvested personal data about millions of Facebook users beginning in 2014. It added that its British parent SCL Elections is also starting bankruptcy proceedings.

"The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers," the statement said.

"As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business, which left Cambridge Analytica with no realistic alternative to placing the company into administration."

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Read more:

Cambridge Analytica shuts down after Facebook data scandal

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Cambridge Analytica scandal: UK tells tech giants to simplify data policies for users

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Allegations of the improper use of data for 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by President Donald Trump's 2016 US election campaign, have prompted multiple official investigations in the United States and Europe.

"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's statement said.

The company said that despite its "precarious financial condition," it plans to meet all its obligations to employees.

The Cambridge Analytica sign had already been removed from the reception area of its London offices on Wednesday.

Cambridge Analytica was created around 2013 initially with a focus on US elections, with $15 million in backing from billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer and a name chosen by future Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, The New York Times reported.

The firm marketed itself as a provider of consumer research, targeted advertising and other data-related services to both political and corporate clients.

After Mr Trump won the White House in 2016, in part with the firm’s help, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix reportedly went to more clients to pitch his services. The company claimed it could develop psychological profiles of consumers and voters which was a "secret sauce" it used to sway them more effectively than traditional advertising could.

Cambridge Analytica suspended Mr Nix in March as the bad news piled up. He was caught on camera, as part of a four-month undercover operation by Channel 4 News, boasting about the firm’s willingness to use bribes, entrapment with sex workers and other tactics to undermine political candidates.

The scandal has caused significant problems for Facebook as well. The world’s biggest social network spent weeks explaining, apologising and adding more privacy features to its service and faced both a #deleteFacebook campaign and lengthy congressional hearings for boss Mark Zuckerberg.

However, Facebook is so large and powerful that the outcry has so far had little impact on its business. The company last week reported quarterly revenue that topped analyst estimates.