Notorious data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica has been shut down. This has lead to fears that it may be in the process of covering up evidence as investigators continue to examine its alleged role in the US presidential election and EU referendum.
Personal information on roughly 87 million Facebook users had been collected by an app that tests the individual’s personality, which is then passed on to the firm. This breaks the social network’s terms of service. It was then claimed that Cambridge Analytics used the information to create psychological profiles of voters for its clients to target in the key votes.
Cambridge Analytica Denying Fault
The consultancy, which is based in London, has denied doing anything wrong. However, its former CEO, Alexander Nix was caught on camera last month explaining how Cambridge Analytica could swing elections around the world. In a statement detailing the commencement of insolvency proceedings, it was claimed that the media siege had driven away customers:
“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.”
In a tweet by Damian Collins, chair of the parliamentary select committee which is currently investigating the scandal, he said that “Cambridge Analytica and SCL group cannot be allowed to delete their data history by closing.”
ICO, the data protection watchdog, made a statement that it will continue its civil and criminal investigations into the companies and “will seek to pursue individuals and directors as appropriate and necessary even where companies may no longer be operating. We will also monitor closely any successor companies using our powers to audit and inspect, to ensure the public is safeguarded.”
However, it has a history of previous frustrated efforts when directors have sent their firms into liquidation, meaning fines could not be recovered and the individual being held into account.
An Unconvincing Argument
Dan Goldstein, president of digital marketing firm Page 1 Solutions disagreed with the statement by Cambridge Analytica that none of its activities broke any laws and “widely accepted as a standard of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas.
“Based on the reporting, Cambridge Analytica extracted very private personal information from Facebook users without permission and used that private data to manipulate voters,” he argued.
“That is very different than using the advertising tools provided by Facebook in the way they are intended to be used. Facebook advertisers don’t have access to the private information that was used and manipulated by Cambridge Analytica.”