On Wednesday, after weeks of tumult, the controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica announced it's shutting down, and will soon be filing for bankruptcy. The firm, which was once hired by the Trump campaign to assist in targeted political messaging during the 2016 presidential election, found itself the subject of intense criticism and scrutiny following reports that it had received improperly acquired information on millions upon millions of Facebook users.
Cambridge Analytica, according to a series of explosive news reports last month, acquired data on tens of millions of Facebook users that had been compiled by another data firm, Global Science Research (GSR) in violation of Facebook's terms of service. Cambridge Analytica has denied that it used Facebook data in service of the Trump campaign, and has maintained that it merely paid to license data that was legally obtained by a third-party researcher.
"Hundreds of data firms have utilized Facebook data in a similar fashion," Cambridge Analytica said in a statement, as detailed by CNET. "To be clear: Cambridge Analytica did not illegally or inappropriately collect or share data with anybody else."
Those denials aside, the company is now reportedly shutting its doors and filing for bankruptcy, claiming that the rush of "unfounded" recent media coverage regarding it has made it toxic to potential clients.
"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," the company said in a statement released on Wednesday.
"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."
The upshot is that Cambridge Analytica, such as it has been, is no more, although it remains to be seen what its top-level executives and analysts will do next. Back in March, the firm's CEO Alexander Nix was suspended following the release of secretly recorded video showing him appearing to discuss bribery and entrapment of politicians with undercover journalists. Nix denied any involvement in such activities, and Cambridge Analytica claimed the report had been misleadingly "edited and scripted," as CNN detailed at the time.
Notably, one of Cambridge Analytica's foremost financial backers ― Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of billionaire conservative fundraise Robert Mercer ― has already signed on as the director of a new data firm, called Emerdata.
As NBC News detailed on Wednesday, Mercer's filings to the British government in March, declaring herself a director of Emerdata, listed her correspondence address as 597 Fifth Avenue in New York City, New York, which at the time was a Cambridge Analytica office.
In the video that ultimately got him suspended, Nix was declarative about the role Cambridge Analytica played in helping elect Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. Specifically, he claimed that fine-tuned data analytics is what explains Trump winning the electoral college while losing the popular vote by three million.
"We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting ― we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy," Nix told the undercover reporters, as detailed by Business Insider. "When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes but won the Electoral College vote, that's down to the data and the research."
It's worth noting that Nix was also intended to be a part of Mercer's new enterprise Emerdata, according to NBC News, but he was reportedly terminated on April 13. Emerdata will also reportedly include Alexandra Tayler, a former chief data officer at the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica, and Julian Wheatland, the former chairman of the firm's parent company, SCL.
In other words, even though Cambridge Analytica is a done deal as of this week, a number of the same power players will seemingly be staying in the game by way of Emerdata.