The controversial political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica announced plans to shut down and declare bankruptcy Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. The news comes after reports in March that the company had unethically obtained personal data from tens of millions of Facebook users. Due to a loss of clients as a result of those revelations, the company released a statement Wednesday explaining that “it is no longer viable to continue operating the business,” despite the fact that Cambridge Analytica still argues it was “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.”
However, the company is still under investigation and sanctions from the US, UK, and others.
Facebook, which suspended the company when the revelations first emerged in March, said Wednesday:
“This doesn’t change our commitment and determination to understand exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We are continuing with our investigation in cooperation with the relevant authorities.”
Privacy advocates echoed that sentiment, warning that the company’s closing will have little impact on the larger problem of the way personal data is routinely handled by other companies. According to Jeff Chester, of the Center for Digital Democracy:
“Cambridge Analytica’s practices, although it crossed ethical boundaries, is really emblematic of how data driven digital marketing occurs worldwide. Americans are currently helpless to stop the massive flows of their personal information now regularly fed to Google, Facebook, ISPs and many others.”
The firm worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and the administration’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, served as vice president of the company. Bannon was on the company’s board when they bought the data in question, but has claimed he “doesn’t remember” the purchase. Much of the company’s early funding came from Trump-affiliated businessman Robert Mercer, and the company has worked exclusively for Republican candidates since 2014.
The company earned $5.9 million from the Trump campaign. However, the use of data from Cambridge Analytica was apparently phased out by the general election, and the personal data at the center of the controversy was for the most part, not central to the campaign’s success.
According to the company’s statement this week:
“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.”