Analysing Cambridge Analytica

The Cambridge Analytica story first looked like a plotline out of U.S. TV series Homeland – allegations of an illegal data grab used to manipulate national votes in both the U.S. presidential election and the UK referendum on leaving the European Union.

But it was life once again imitating art – sparked by an investigative report published in mid-March 2018 by The Observer newspaper and shared with the UK’s Channel 4 television and the New York Times.

The company at the centre of this story – Cambridge Analytica – said in early May 2017 it was shutting down and starting insolvency proceedings – but the reporter who first broke the story raised major doubts about whether this either ended the questions or closed the issue.

The stories reported how a UK data analytics and election consultancy firm – Cambridge Analytica – used data harvested from 50 million Facebook users to influence both the U.S. presidential election and the UK referendum on leaving the European Union. That soon turned into 87 million users as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to answer questions in the U.S. Congress – and was repeatedly urged to testify at a UK Parliamentary committee.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have denied any wrongdoing.

Facebook lost around $50 billion in share value on the stock markets in two days – but recovered all that within two months. Facebook changed its internal rules. Facebook suspended its relationship with Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix after he was shown on TV boasting about his company’s influence in the American election.

UK Information Commissioner officials raided Cambridge Analytica offices to search for records. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and EU regulators looked at possible breaches of the law.

By way of perspective on the latest revelations, parts of this story were actually reported previously – as reported by Wired magazine and earlier reports on the Brexit vote. The Observer reporter breaking these stories – Carole Cadwalladr – even got a pat on the back from Alastair Campbell, former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spin doctor.

Reporter uncovers story
Cambridge Analytica shutting down
Case not closed
The Guardian on Cambridge Analytica
BBC on Cambridge Analytica
The Cambridge Analytica saga
Cambridge Analytica – the company
Data harvest
Zuckerberg called to U.S. Congress
UK also wants Zuckerberg
Facebook suspends relationship with Cambridge Analytica
Cambridge Analytica suspends Nix
Nix on tv
UK information commission raids
USA and EU investigate
Earlier warnings- Wired magazine
Brexit and Cambridge Analytica
Investigative reporter gets unexpected compliment
The Facebook data issue