Cambridge Analytica shuts down; Nix summoned

Update: Former Cambridge Analytica boss Alexander Nix was formally summoned by a UK committee on Thursday after first rejecting the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee’s invitation to give evidence, saying he could not appear while investigations by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office and the Electoral Commission were ongoing. Both bodies confirmed his appearance would not hinder their inquiries – and Nix is now expected to appear on June 6 or potentially face being found guilty of contempt of Parliament [more on contempt].

Political data-firm Cambridge Analytica is closing down, citing a loss of business. The firm has been accused of mishandling the data of up to 87 million Facebook profiles for use in political campaigns.

In a statement on its website, the firm said: “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…As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), however, said it will continue its investigation into “individuals and directors” regardless of the closure.

Its CEO, Alexander Nix, came under fire when Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University researcher at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed how the firm sourced its data.

Nix told the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee on February 27 that Cambridge Analytica never received any data from a Facebook app developed by Global Science Research, a company owned by Kogan.

Speaking to the committee on April 24, Kogan disputed this version of events. “We certainly gave them data. That’s indisputable,” he said.

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According to Brittany Kaiser, a former employee who testified to a UK parliamentary investigation on April 17, more than 87 million users’ data may have been compromised by Cambridge Analytica.

Since its closure, there’s been speculation that Cambridge Analytica could be rebranding itself under a new name, Emerdata. The New York Times reported that executives at Cambridge Analytica, along with its backer Robert Mercer, have created this new firm. On March 16th, 2018 the Mercer daughters Jennifer and Rebekah were appointed as directors (Company House). The Certificate of Incorporation (Company House) dates from August 11th, 2017.

According to the Guardian, Alexander Nix is one of those listed as a director of Emerdata. From documents of the Companies House however it is apparent that Alexander Nix, appointed as director on January 23th, 2018, resigned on March 28th. Though it’s not clear what the company does, it lists its activities at Company House as “data processing, hosting, and related activities” and shares an address in London with Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group.

You can read here about Cambridge University’s refusal of a Freedom of Information request from WikiTribune regarding an external arbitration process involving Kogan.

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