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Emerdata: Controversial Cambridge Analytica shutting: What happens to the vast data it holds

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NEW DELHI: UK-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which was recently embroiled in a massive data-harvesting scandal that compromised the personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users, on Wednesday announced it will shut down operations. The decision comes on the back of the company losing all its customers as a fallout of the controversy, it said.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

“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,” it added.

Following the shutdown announcement, several reports have started to emerge stating that executives at Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, SCL Group have actually moved to creating a new firm, Emerdata, based in Britain.

Emerdata, which shares an address with SCL, lists Alexander Nix, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cambridge Analytica among its directors. In March, news agency Bloomberg quoted Companies House, a British government website to report that Rebekah and Jennifer, daughters of hedge-fund mogul Robert Mercer also joined the Emerdata board. Cambridge Analytica is partly owned by the Mercer family.

Emerdata was set up in 2017 by Julian Wheatland, the chairman of SCL, and Alex Tayler, Cambridge Analytica’s chief data officer, who was appointed to replace Nix as CEO while the company conducted an internal investigation into the data-harvesting controversy.

The New York Times (NYT) on Wednesday quoted unnamed sources to report that one of the plans under consideration was to sell off Cambridge Analytica and SCL’s combined data and intellectual property, adding that Emerdata could be used for the firm’s rebranding.

“An executive and a part owner of SCL Group, Nigel Oakes, has publicly described Emerdata as a way of rolling up the two companies under one new banner,” NYT further reported.

Cambridge Analytica meanwhile has said it has filed papers to begin insolvency proceedings in the UK and will seek bankruptcy protection in a federal court in New York.

(With agency inputs)

Updated: May 3, 2018 — 7:27 am

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