India to continue probe despite Cambridge Analytica closure

Cambridge Analytica was created around 2013 initially with a focus on U.S. elections, with $15 million (roughly Rs. 100 crores) in backing from billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer and a name chosen by future Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, the New York Times reported.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Thursday an investigation determined almost 3 million Pennsylvanians' Facebook data was shared with Cambridge Analytica and additional third parties.

The firm had become the center of a maelstrom of controversy over the way it allegedly used Facebook data to manipulate voter opinion ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

In its statement, Cambridge Analytica said, "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".

"Nearly a quarter of the commonwealth's residents - 22 percent - had their personal data compromised by Facebook's privacy breach", Shapiro said. In addition, Jennifer and Rebekah Mercer, the daughters of businessman Robert Mercer who created and funded Cambridge Analytica, are Emerdata directors.

It is not yet known how many Facebook users there are overall in Pennsylvania. More details could emerge when Cambridge Analytica files for bankruptcy protection in NY, as planned. The company claimed that "parallel bankruptcy proceedings will soon be commenced on behalf of Cambridge Analytica LLC and certain of the Company's USA affiliates in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of NY".

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) was investigating the firm as part of a wider probe involving social media companies, data analytics firms, political parties and campaigns. "We are continuing with our investigation in cooperation with the relevant authorities".

The closure of the firms came after a series of scathing investigative reports revealed how profiles of 87 million Facebook users were improperly acquired by the firm from researcher Aleksandr Kogan, who designed a personality quiz that not only lifted data from those who downloaded it but from their friends as well. It sought information on Facebook to build psychological profiles on a large portion of the USA electorate, media reports said. Facebook has since apologised and tightened its privacy restrictions.

"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", the statement read, noting that a United Kingdom official had conducted an independent investigation into whether the company's activities had illegally supported Trump and concluded the allegations were not "borne out by the facts".

  • Rogelio Becker