After Cambridge Analytica Announces Shutdown, India Says Probe Will Go On

The Indian government had sent notices to both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, questioning them about the data breach.


After scandal-hit British analytics firm Cambridge Analytica announced its shutdown, the Indian government said it would continue its inquiry into the massive data leak from Facebook to the firm, senior IT Ministry officials were reported as saying on May 3.

“We will continue with the process. The liability existed before the company filing for bankruptcy, which is its own issue in many ways,” an official at the Ministry of Electronics and Information technology (MeitY), told BusinessLine on May 3.

It quoted another source as saying: “They (CA) have to respond to the issues raised by the Indian government. Liquidation or insolvency process does not bail them out of past liabilities. They have to clear the tasks they have been given.”

Cambridge Analytica said on May 2 that it was filing for insolvency in the United Kingdom and the United States. In its statement, the company said it was “vilified” by the media for its “legal” actions.

The company is immediately ceasing all operations in the United Kingdom. Cambridge Analytica LLC and certain of the company’s U.S. affiliates are also filing for bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

“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,” it said in a statement.

The Indian government had sent notices to both Facebook and the data analytics company, questioning them about the data breach. The last date for response is May 10.

The company has been accused of harvesting Facebook profiles to influence political beliefs, and as a result election results, during the U.S. Presidential election in 2016. It has also been reported to have worked in the United Kingdom for Nigel Farage’s Leave Europe Union campaign and in India in the Bihar elections in 2010.

The government of India sent a new notice last month to Cambridge Analytica to seek information over what kind of data was collected in India, the research instruments used to capture such data and whether the company harvested any data through third party apps and whether or not mining of such data was done with user consent.

The government has also questioned the company of non-disclosure pacts signed by it with its associates and clients for Indian assignments, according to the Press Trust of India.

Cambridge Analytica had claimed that its client in India –the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) — won the Bihar election in 2010. It reportedly made a proposal for the 2019 elections as well.

Investigations against the company are also ongoing in the United Kingdom. The British Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating SCL Group (the parent company that is not shutting down) and Cambridge Analytica in civil and criminal probe. “We will be examining closely the details of the announcements of the winding down of Cambridge Analytica and the status of its parent company,” it said in a statement. The House of Commons committee on digital, culture, media and sport is also investigating the company.

Shutting down Cambridge Analytica does not, however, seem to be the end of the road for the data analytics group.

The company is just rebranding, according to tech news website, which said that the UK official registrar of businesses and organizations, Companies House, lists an active company called Emerdata Limited, which is headquartered at the same offices as SCL Elections, the political arm of the company, and is run by the same individuals. Dr Alexander Taylor, acting CEO of Cambridge Analytica, was appointed a director of Emerdata on March 28. Julian Wheatland is an Emerdata director who is also a director within the SCL network of organizations.Daughters of businessman Robert Mercer, who founded Cambridge Analytica, Jennifer and Rebekah Mercer are directors of Emerdata, the report said.

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