Cambridge Analytica a British data analytics firm is the focal point of controversy in the United States and Britain after two newspapers accounted last Sunday that the company reaped personal data about Facebook users since 2014. Accused of assisting the 2016 presidential campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump, Cambridge Analytica is now under government search of its London office, questions from U.S. state authorities, and a demand by Facebook that it submits to a forensic audit.
How did it start?
Cambridge Analytica is a derivative of SCL Group, a government and military contractor that says “it works on everything from food security research to counter-narcotics to political campaigns”.
According to its website, SCL was established more than 25 years ago. Cambridge Analytica was created around 2013 initially with a focal point on U.S. elections, with $15 million 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.
Which the New York Times reported the company was staffed by mostly British workers then, assisted Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign before helping Trump’s.
What did they do?
Cambridge Analytica advertises itself as providing consumer research targeted publicity and other data-related services to political and corporate clients. They don’t list its corporate clients, but on its website describes them as including a daily newspaper that hunted to know more about its subscribers, a women’s clothing brand that sought research on its customers and a U.S. auto insurer interested in marketing itself.
On Monday Britain News reported,” based on the secretly recorded video, that Cambridge Analytica secretly stage-managed Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaigns in the hotly contested 2013 and 2017 elections. Cambridge Analytica denied the report. The company’s website lists five office locations in New York, Washington, London, Brazil and Malaysia.”
When did it first get attention?
A Report Last Year came “After Trump won the White House in 2016, in part with the firm’s help, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix went to more clients to pitch his services”. The company boasted it could develop psychological profiles of consumers and voters which was a “secret sauce” it used to sway them more effectively than traditional advertising could.
Rival consultants and campaign assistant, though, expressed doubts about the company’s claims. Brad Parscale ran Trump’s digital operations in 2016 said: “the campaign did not use Cambridge Analytica’s data, relying instead on voter data from a Republican National Committee operation.”
What is it accused of?
London’s Observer reported on Saturday that “Cambridge Analytica beginning in 2014 obtained data on 50 million Facebook users via means that deceived both the users and Facebook.
The data was harvested by an application developed by a British academic, Aleksandr Kogan”. More than 270,000 people downloaded the application and logged in with their Facebook credentials, according to Facebook. The application gathered their data and data about their friends, and then Kogan passed the data to Cambridge Analytica, according to both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.
On Saturday Cambridge Analytica said that “it did not initially know Kogan violated Facebook’s terms, and that it deleted the data once it found out in 2015. Kogan could not be reached for comment. The data, though, was not deleted, the allegation was not true”. Facebook said it was investigating to verify the accuracy of the claim.
What happens next?
Facebook said, “We are pressing Cambridge Analytica for answers, after getting assurances from the firm in 2015 that it had deleted all data, we also have hired forensic auditors from the firm Stroz Friedberg to help.” While Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica, from its platform for violating Facebook rules.
Facebook’s probe although may have to wait until government authorities complete their investigation. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office is in pursuit to get a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s office and asked Facebook’s auditors to stand down in the meantime. Attorneys general from the U.S. states of Massachusetts and Connecticut have separately launched investigations into how the Facebook data is being handled also the attorney general’s office in California, where Facebook is based, said it had concerns.