Cambridge Analytica To Shut Down, But is it a Shutdown or A Rebrand as Emerdata?
Cambridge Analytica, the consultant company accused of manipulating millions of Facebook users’ data for political purposes, announced on Wednesday it will shut down. But is Cambridge Analytica really shutting down or just rebranding as Emerdata?
The announcement came from Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, which said Cambridge Analytica would file for bankruptcy.
Cambridge Analytica originally admitted to harvesting tens of thousands of Facebook users’ data for political purposes in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, former Director of Cambridge Analytica Brittany Kaiser revealed during a hearing with the U.K. parliament that the number of Facebook users who were affected may be 86 million or more.
The company was also allegedly involved in influencing users to vote in favor of Britain leaving the European Union (EU) in the U.K. Brexit referendum a few months before the U.S. election.
The closure will not stop the investigation process
Despite the shutdown, the investigation into the data breach scandal will continue, as stated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Damian Collins, Chairman of the Commons Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) stated in a tweet that “Cambridge Analytica and (parent company) SCL Group cannot be allowed to delete their data history by closing.”
Collins also told BBC that the committee would have to ensure that Cambridge Analytica could not avoid investigation by closing. In response to the closure, British politician Mary Creagh sarcastically tweeted “Outrageous. Insolvency used to cover up illegality.”
Former Cambridge Analytica employees, whose names were not disclosed, cast doubt that their former employer would actually shut down. During an interview with Financial Times, former employees stated that Cambridge Analytica would simply reappear in a different form or some type of cover-up.
According to a report by The Guardian, the team behind Cambridge Analytica has established another firm called Emerdata. Former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix is listed as a director along with other high-ranking executives from SCL, including the billionaire Mercer family that was behind Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica also stole Twitter users’ data
Cambridge Analytica is also known to have obtained data from Twitter’s users. The microblogging platform revealed that it had sold public data access “just for one day” in 2015 to Aleksander Kogan, then a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, and his company the Global Science Research (GSR). Kogan created tools for Cambridge Analytica that helped the political consulting firm to strategically psychologically influence target voters.
Kogan and his company created quizzes such as “This is Your Digital Life” that gathered data from Facebook’s millions of users without their knowledge in 2014 and 2015. The data was then passed to Cambridge Analytica.
A spokesperson from the company denied any wrongdoing, saying it used the Twitter data only for political advertising.
Facebook has since suspended third-party apps such as Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ following the data scandal. The social network is struggling to fix its security problem after the fiasco, and many of its users have abandoned the platform in fear of future breaches.