British firm Cambridge Analytica, which is embroiled in a controversy over mishandling Facebook user data, on Wednesday said it is shutting down operations along with its parent organisation, SCL Elections Limited, citing losses.
Cambridge Analytica is under scrutiny for allegedly harvesting the information of over 70 million Facebook users to influence the outcome of the United States presidential election in 2016. Earlier in April, parliamentarians in the United Kingdom published evidence about Brexit campaign group Leave.EU benefiting from work done by the firm.
The company said it is immediately ceasing all operations of Cambridge Analytica and will soon begin bankruptcy proceedings. Insolvency proceedings for SCL Elections will soon begin, it added.
“Despite Cambridge Analytica’s unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully, the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers,” the company said in a statement. “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.”
Cambridge Analytica continued to defend itself and said an internal investigation had not found any wrongdoing. “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,” it said.
Investigators, however, said the probe into the controversy will continue. “We have got to make sure this is not at attempt to run and hide, that these companies are not closing down to try to avoid them being rigorously investigated over the allegations that are being made against them,” Damian Collins, chair of the Commons select committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told BBC.
Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office said it will continue to pursue individuals and directors as appropriate despite the shutdown, Reuters reported. “We will also monitor closely any successor companies using our powers to audit and inspect, to ensure the public is safeguarded,” a spokesperson said.
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg had told a committee of the United States Senate that Cambridge Analytica had illegally used his personal data too. Zuckerberg had also apologised for failing to protect the personal information of millions of people.
Soon after the data breach was reported, whistleblower Christopher Wylie said Cambridge Analytica had worked on several projects in India too. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in April sent notices to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. In its notice to Facebook, the government asked for details of the security measures undertaken to ensure “data concerning Indians are not pilfered or manipulated again for extraneous purposes including to influence the elections”.