British marketing research firm, Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, SCL Election, are shutting down operation after being caught in a major scandal of misusing users’ data obtained from Facebook.
In a press release late Wednesday, the firms blamed negative media coverage that followed revelations of their alleged misuse of over 15 million Facebook users’ data which they allegedly obtained from the social networking giant under false pretense.
Cambridge and SCL Elections “filed applications to commence insolvency proceedings in the U.K. The company is immediately ceasing all operations and the boards have applied to appoint insolvency practitioners Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP to act as the independent administrator for Cambridge Analytica,” the statement said.
The statement added that media “siege” had “driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers” and “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.”
Different accounts said it was possible that as many as 87 million users’ data might have been collected in the Facebook scandal linked to Cambridge Analytica in a ruthless bid to profile prospective voters and target them for campaign ads in several countries, especially the United States.
Internal company documents made public by some Cambridge Analytica former employees alleged that SCL Election was involved in questionable election practices in Nigeria since 2007.
During the 2015 elections, Cambridge allegedly deployed scare tactics to dissuade potential voters of Muhammadu Buhari after being contracted by an unnamed businessman with ties to then-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, the UK Guardian reported.
President Buhari and former President Goodluck Jonathan
Mr Jonathan denied asking any businessman to contract Cambridge Analytica for him and also denied entering into any contract with the marketing firm.
The companies addressed the allegations contained in the wave of scrutiny they received, saying “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.”
In further denying the allegations, the companies said an independent investigator who was hired to probe the companies’ practices found no wrongdoing.
“In light of those accusations, noted Queen’s Counsel Julian Malins was retained to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations regarding the company’s political activities. Mr Malins report, which the Company posted on its website today, concluded that the allegations were not ‘borne out by the facts.’ Regarding the conclusions set forth in his report, Mr Malins stated:
‘I had full access to all members of staff and documents in the preparation of my report. My findings entirely reflect the amazement of the staff, on watching the television programmes and reading the sensationalistic reporting, that any of these media outlets could have been talking about the company for which they worked. Nothing of what they heard or read resonated with what they actually did for a living,’” the statement said.
The company maintained its innocence but said it would shut down notwithstanding after losing all its clients and suppliers and discovered that its brand had been irreparably damaged.
“Despite the company’s precarious financial condition, Cambridge Analytica intends to fully meet its obligations to its employees, including with respect to notice periods, severance terms, and redundancy entitlements,” it said.