Cambridge Analytica files for bankruptcy in US

BENGALURU • Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy at the centre of Facebook's privacy scandal, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the United States.

This past March, allegations surfaced that Cambridge Analytica, hired by President Donald Trump's 2016 US election campaign, improperly used data of 87 million Facebook users beginning in 2014.

Cambridge Analytica and its British parent SCL Elections said earlier this month they would shut down immediately and begin bankruptcy proceedings after suffering a sharp drop in business.

The petition to file bankruptcy was submitted at the US Bankruptcy Court Southern District of New York and was signed on behalf of Cambridge Analytica's board by billionaire Robert Mercer's daughters Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer.

The Mercer family was one of Mr Trump's biggest donors.

Cambridge Analytica LLC listed assets in the range of US$100,001 (S$134,000) to US$500,000 and liabilities in the range of US$1 million to US$10 million. The London-based firm was created in 2013 initially with a focus on US elections, with US$15 million in backing from Mr Mercer and a name chosen by former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, according to a report by the New York Times.

Facebook has faced multiple investigations in the US and Europe over its handling of personal data of users, hurting shares of the Mark Zuckerberg-led company.

Mr Zuckerberg has appeared before US congressional committees to testify on data privacy and will meet leaders of the European Parliament soon.

Facebook said on Monday it has suspended around 200 apps in the first stage of its review into apps that had access to large quantities of user data before the company restricted data access.

This week, the New York Times reported that the US Justice Department and the FBI are investigating Cambridge Analytica - although it was unclear if the probe was linked to that of Special Counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia.

The company has been accused by former employee Christopher Wylie of using Russian researchers and sharing data with companies linked to Russian intelligence.

Cambridge Analytica became embroiled in scandal when Mr Wylie, 28, revealed it had used a Facebook personality prediction app to hijack up to 87 million Facebook users' data - claims it denies.

Soon after, Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended after he was filmed by undercover reporters bragging about ways to win political campaigns, including through blackmail and honey traps.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2018, with the headline 'Cambridge Analytica files for bankruptcy in US'. Print Edition | Subscribe