Science & Technology

Cambridge Analytica shutting down

Cambridge Analytica, the data firm accused of illegally harvesting the personal information of millions of Facebook users, is starting bankruptcy procedures. In a recent press release, the company announced that “Despite Cambridge Analytica’s unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully, … the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers. As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business,”

The company is accused of using illegally obtained data to sway the outcomes of the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit referendum. Earlier in the year, footage appeared showing Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, describing the ways in which the company could swing elections. In the past, the firm has been involved in foreign election campaigns in Italy, Nigeria, and Kenya.

In March it was announced that CEO Alexander Nix was being suspended

Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica employee and whistleblower who initially shed light on the scandal, released a statement saying “Cambridge Analytica has been exposed as a company undermining democratic institutions around the world, … There are still many unanswered questions, and we must be sure that its decision to close is not merely a rebranding exercise or a way to circumvent ongoing investigations.”

As a result of the scandal, Facebook has imposed new limits on the amount of data available to third-party developers. This will likely impact data collection companies negatively, as they rely on a stream of data to perform their functions.

Before the closure of Cambridge Analytica was announced, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to testify in front of the US Congress. He was expected to be questioned on the release of 87 million Facebook user’s personal information. Lawmakers asked many pointed questions ranging in topic from data-collection to targeted advertising and privacy.

Depending on who you ask, Zuckerberg either came out on top or was brutally grilled during the testimony. Chris Messina, a former employee at Google and Uber, said “In some ways, it felt like I was rooting for our person from Silicon Valley, as controversial as he is,”. Others were not so impressed by the billionaire-entrepreneurs performance; Violet Blue, a columnist at Engadget wrote “Mr. Zuckerberg’s 10 hours of dodging lawmakers’ questions in the proverbial hot seat …  distracted [the] press from the truly freaky attempts at misdirection flowing from [Zuckerberg],”.

One question on everyone’s mind is ‘Should the government be allowed to regulate Facebook?’. Many argue that the company has become too large and powerful and that policymakers should step in to curb its control.

Some say that instead of fighting Facebook, we should leave things the way they are. Eventually, according to the theory, people will get bored of the social media site and leave. This is what happened to former internet giant MySpace which, at the height of its reign, was the most-visited social media site for three years in a row.

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