LONDON (CBS News) – Cambridge Analytica, a U.K.-based political consulting firm at the center of the recent Facebook data scandal, is “immediately ceasing all operations,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers,” the firm 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.”
The statement said the company will soon begin bankruptcy proceedings in the U.K. and the U.S. The company said it has “unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully.”
The Wall Street Journal and Gizmodo first reported the news. A source close to the matter told the Journal that the company is closing its doors because it lost several clients in recent months and faces growing legal fees as part of the Facebook investigation.
Cambridge Analytica has been at the heart of the data scandal that has rocked Facebook, the world’s largest social network, and led to calls for more regulation of user data. Facebook banned the political data analysis firm in March, and said it believes data from up to 87 million people was “improperly shared” with Cambridge Analytica.
“Facebook’s trying to move past this all, and this is kind of the next step in that,” Ian Sherr, the executive editor of CNET News, said about Cambridge Analytica’s closure. “This company is no longer going to be a thorn in their side in the real world. It’s now a rhetorical thorn in their side that people will bring up quite often whenever concerned about privacy.”
The man who mined who data for Cambridge Analytica is a scientist named Aleksandr Kogan. He developed an app that harvested data from tens of millions of unwitting Facebook users, CBS News’ Lesley Stahl reported last month for “60 Minutes.”
He asked Facebook users to take a survey and used their answers to build psychological profiles meant to predict their behavior. When doing that, he failed to disclose that what he was really after was access to their friends — tens of millions of people he could not otherwise reach easily. He also didn’t disclose that he was doing the survey for Cambridge Analytica, which used the material to influence people on behalf of political clients.
Kogan acknowledged giving the data to Cambridge Analytica and apologized for his actions in the “60 Minutes” interview. He said he was “sincerely sorry” about the way he and “tens of thousands” of other app developers took advantage of what he said was Facebook’s lax data policy enforcement, but he doesn’t think he really did anything wrong.
As political consultants, Cambridge Analytica was hired by campaigns to analyze voters and target them with ads. In the 2016 presidential election, it worked first for Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign, then later for Donald Trump, though his campaign says they didn’t use the Kogan data.
The Republican benefactors Robert and Rebekah Mercer were Cambridge Analytica’s financial backers, and Steve Bannon was on the board.
Cambridge Analytica suspended chief executive Alexander Nix in March after he and other senior executives at the firm were caught on video saying they would go beyond using data to hurt a client’s rival political candidate. Those tactics, Nix said in a report broadcast by the U.K.’s Channel 4, included entrapping politicians to influence an election’s outcome.
Late last month, Kogan took questions from British lawmakers.
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