Cambridge Analytica, which specialises in the rather creepy field of “psychographic” profiling, acquired the data of more than 50 million Facebook users via an illegitimate route. The company acquired the information without the knowledge of Facebook users who ran a personality quiz app created by a University of Cambridge professor.
Cambridge Analytica is widely thought to have helped Donald Trump’s social media campaign to promote his bid to be elected President of the United States.
According to a statement by the controversial data analytics firm, it’s all the media’s fault that Cambridge Analytica is now closing its doors:
“Over the past several months, Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of numerous unfounded accusations. The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers. As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business.”
Hmm. Well, I doubt that their chief executive being secretly filmed saying that they engaged in bribery, dug up dirt on political rivals, and weren’t above using “very beautiful” Ukrainian girls as honeypots, helped their image very much.
Personally I won’t be shedding any tears.
MP Damian Collins, who chairs the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport select committee, tweeted that Cambridge Analytica should not be allowed to escape investigation just because it has gone down the plughole.
Cambridge Analytica and SCL group cannot be allowed to delete their data history by closing. The investigations into their work are vital
— Damian Collins (@DamianCollins) May 2, 2018
Investigation is definitely needed. Hours before Cambridge Analytica threw in the towel, security researcher Chris Vickery shared evidence with UK parliamentarians that appeared to show Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ (AIQ) worked together to build tools that may have assisted various groups behind the narrow victory for the pro-Brexit campaign in Britain’s divisive 2016 referendum.
AIQ, like Cambridge Analytica, has been banned by Facebook, and is currently being investigated by Canadian authorities for possible violations of privacy law and unauthorised access to data.
Vickery was able to present his findings because umm.. the firms carelessly left it available for anybody to freely download from the internet, without asking for so much as a password. So much for taking data security seriously.
So, Cambridge Analytica is no more. People will have lost their jobs. But don’t be too quick to shed a tear.
It turns out that the founders of Cambridge Analytica have registered a new data analytics company, that they have called Emerdata.
What’s the betting that the thinking behind Emerdata might be very similar to Cambridge Analytica?