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Following Facebook Privacy Crisis, Cambridge Analytica to Shut Down

The UK's Financial Times newspaper said it has spoken to another ex-employee of Cambridge Analytica, on condition of anonymity, who said they were sure the company would emerge "in some other incarnation or guise".

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Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy firm at the centre of the Facebook data-sharing scandal, is shutting down, media reported.

The firm was accused of improperly obtaining personal information on behalf of political clients.

According to Facebook, data of up to 87 million of its users was harvested by a quiz app and then passed on to the political consultancy.

The social network said its own probe into the matter would continue, the BBC reported.

“This doesn’t change our commitment and determination to understand exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said a spokesman.

“We are continuing with our investigation in cooperation with the relevant authorities.”

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for Cambridge Analytica, referred the BBC to a statement on the firm’s website.

“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.

“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.

"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.
Cambridge Analytica, IANS

“As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business.”

The statement added that its parent company SCL Elections was also commencing bankruptcy proceedings.

The UK’s Financial Times newspaper said it has spoken to another ex-employee of Cambridge Analytica, on condition of anonymity, who said they were sure the company would emerge “in some other incarnation or guise”.

The Observer journalist whose investigation first exposed the data privacy scandal has suggested that the public remain sceptical.

The chair of a UK parliament committee investigating the firm’s activities also raised concerns about Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections’ move.

“They are party to very serious investigations and those investigations cannot be impeded by the closure of these companies,” said parliamentarian Damian Collins.

“I think it’s absolutely vital that the closure of these companies is not used as an excuse to try and limit or restrict the ability of the authorities to investigate what they were doing,” the BBC quoted Collins as saying.

In March, Channel 4 aired undercover footage of Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, giving examples of how the firm could swing elections around the world with underhand tactics such as smear campaigns and honey traps.

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The UK-based company, which denies any wrongdoing, has an extensive record of working abroad on many election campaigns, including in Italy, Kenya and Nigeria.

Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive Alexander Nix was suspended in March after the Channel 4 News footage was aired.

In April, Cambridge Analytica said it had only licensed 30 million records belonging to US citizens from the quiz app’s creator Aleksandr Kogan, and that they had not been used in the US presidential election.

The firm added that it had since deleted all the information despite claims to the contrary by others. (IANS)

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Facebook Planning to Increase Their Capability Through Smartphones

According to Bhushan, Facebook is ready to help smartphone brands reduce the consumer drop-off from their purchase journey, creating $3.1 billion worth of potential revenue for them by 2022.

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An image showing a Facebook logo reflected in a person's eye. VOA

When we talk about advertising potential on Facebook, the fact is that 2.2 billion global users — almost a quarter of the world’s population — constitute the largest marketplace on Earth that can be explored better with intelligent communication and targeted, age-specific outreach.

Facebook India has done its homework and has real, contemporary data based on primary research and insights survey on how Indians, especially millennials, are shopping on smartphones and still, many fall off the grid and cancel orders in the middle of their purchase journey.

In India, there are nearly 380 million smartphone users as of today, according to Counterpoint Research.

The number of Internet users in India will reach 500 million by June, says a joint report by The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Kantar IMRB. On the other hand, the mobile phone customer base now stands at over 1.17 billion, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Facebook today has 217 million users in India — a huge market to tap into and advertisers know this well — and are aware of the future too when seven in 10 smartphone purchases will be mobile influenced by 2022.

“We now have reliable data how people are buying on smartphones. We can make their path to purchase smooth, make those quickers reduce friction, increase sales and cut costs for businesses,” Sandeep Bhushan, Director, Facebook India and South Asia, told IANS in an interview.

“We are mapping the friction and planning products and tools for businesses to reduce the friction and, therefore, can provide greater value for businesses and consumers alike in a secure way,” Bhushan added.

Currently, mobile influences 58 per cent of smartphone purchase decisions, amounting to $8.5 billion worth of sales and it is expected to grow 1.8 times to reach 73 per cent and influence $15.6 billion worth of sales by 2022, according to a joint Facebook-KPMG report.

Facebook influences 33 per cent of purchase decisions amounting to $4.8 billion worth of sales and it is expected to grow two times to reach 44 per cent and influence $9.5 billion worth of sales by 2022.

Facebook.
Facebook is one of the largest platform for business across the world. Pixabay

According to Bhushan, Facebook is ready to help smartphone brands reduce the consumer drop-off from their purchase journey, creating $3.1 billion worth of potential revenue for them by 2022.

“We can reduce purchase time by 14 odd per cent. We also know that sales can go by up to $3 billion, built on the fact that consumers will use mobiles for various purposes and the device offers all kinds of possibilities. We can do right messaging at the right place with mobile and cut the friction,” Bhushan informed.

After facing the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook recently cleared that it does not tell advertisers who you are or sell your information to anyone.

“We provide advertisers with reports about the kinds of people seeing their ads and how their ads are performing, but we don’t share information that personally identifies you. You can always see the ‘interests’ assigned to you in your ad preferences, and if you want, remove them,” Rob Goldman, Vice President, Ads at Facebook, wrote recently in a blog post.

Facebook’s mobile advertising revenue represented approximately 91 per cent of advertising revenue for the first quarter of 2018 — up from approximately 85 per cent of advertising revenue in the first quarter of 2017.

“We understand that consumers are different — men, women, young, old, affluent and non-affluent — and have different purchasing patterns. Businesses can reach the right audience on Facebook where they can target by age.

“Consumers below age 25 are more tech-savvy; so businesses can provide them with deeper, technical information about a product. For consumers like me, all I need to know is my favourite brand has a new feature or not. This is what we do — simplify the path to purchase,” Bhushan told IANS.

To take the vision closer to reality, Facebook is already running a programme with one big smartphone player.

“In this programme, the moment you see an ad, you click, the lead form opens, auto populates, you click again and get a call from the promotor of the retail store next to you within an hour,” the Facebook India executive informed.

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“We have interesting, intelligent forms which are auto-filled that gives customers flexibility and mental peace. All of this was not possible earlier,” Bhushan told IANS.

The data lets advertisers reach the right people, including millions of small businesses, who rely on Facebook every day to reach people who might be interested in their product.

“We are ready for products in any Internet situation. 2G is still default in India despite so much 4G talk as there are more mobile handset users that smartphone ones; so we have covered them too with Facebook Lite,” Bhushan stressed. (IANS)