The consulting firm that mined and exploited the personal data of 87 million Facebook users to help Donald Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign, as well as the UK’s Leave campaign, is closing down.
Cambridge Analytica said in a statement on Wednesday that it is seizing all operations in the UK and, shortly, in the United States. The story first broke by the Wall Street Journal by the firm’s parent SCL Group, which is also closing down.
The Chair of the UK’s House of Commons select committee for Digital affairs, Damian Collins, told the BBC that the company “cannot be allowed” to delete their data history by closing.
Facebook’s troubles will continue, as probes into how Cambridge Analytica gained access to user data in the UK and the US will continue.
The story first broke by the New York Times and the Observer in March also established the common infrastructure between the two conservative campaigns.
Later revelations have also raised an allegation of illegal campaign funding for the Leave and Vote Leave campaigns, laundered through a Canadian company, AggregateIQ (AIQ), using the Cambridge Analytica infrastructure.
The revelations rocked Facebook’s stock valuation and the company continues to be exposed to litigation costs. ISBA – a British group of advertisers representing 3,000 brands – is threatening to pull out of Facebook.
The London-based Privacy International advocacy group is proposing a cluster of legal measures to avoid the next Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. One of the key features of the Privacy International proposals is the shift of focus from companies exploiting data – like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica – to data ownership. That is significant because consumers do not have the technological expertise to understand how deeply technological behemoths can penetrate into their privacy.
According to a July 2016 Eurobarometer study, more than seven in ten Europeans (72%) say it is very important that the confidentiality of their e-mails and online instant messaging is guaranteed. However, only 37% of Europeans know that their voice and instant messaging communication can legally be accessed by private interests without their consent.
To make this right effective, individual data should no longer be regarded a commodity. If personal data can be sold, in a world of only a handful of online behemoths, international corporations will be able to “shake” users for their data as a precondition to gaining access to online services.
According to Privacy international “the current scandal shows that many unlawful practices take place without being seen and are only revealed when independent researchers conduct lengthy and detailed investigations.