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Cambridge Analytica bankruptcy filing: Lots of debt, lingering questions

Cambridge Analytica, the data consulting firm at the center of Facebook’s latest privacy scandal, has filed for bankruptcy in the United States.
The firm announced earlier this month that it was shutting down because “the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers.” It filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, Thursday, and so did its affiliate, SCL USA.
The firm, which was reportedly created to use psychometrics — which nowadays involves building psychological profiles partly based on people’s social media activity — to focus on U.S. elections with millions of dollars in backing from Republican donor Robert Mercer, bought the data of tens of millions of Facebook users from a Cambridge University researcher. That researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, originally collected the information for a personality-quiz app on Facebook. He said he later changed the terms of service of the app to inform users that he would be selling their data.
In its filing, Cambridge Analytica — which once had former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as its vice president — listed assets of $100,001 to $500,000 and liabilities of $1 million to $10 million.
The filing was signed on behalf of the board by Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer, daughters of Robert Mercer.

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Cambridge Analytica is facing investigations in the U.K., and the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice are also reportedly investigating the firm. In addition, Facebook is looking into whether Cambridge Analytica retained Facebook user data — the firm says it did not — and there are many other interested parties.
For example, among the 33 creditors listed in the bankruptcy filing is Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.
Sen. Thune is the head of the Commerce Committee, who in April was among the first to question Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during two days of Congressional testimony about the Cambridge Analytica mess and other Facebook policies and practices.
The Commerce Committee does not provide or charge for any services. But Thune has mentioned that he also plans to hold a hearing for Cambridge Analytica, whose clients included then-presidential candidate Donald Trump but has denied that any of the Facebook data was used in Trump’s presidential campaign. Mercer is a big Trump donor.
Also listed as Cambridge Analytica creditors are the state attorneys general or assistant AGs of New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, and officials with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Election Commission.
The Massachusetts AG’s office is investigating Cambridge Analytica. The FEC would not comment. The other offices mentioned above have not returned a request for comment.
The attorney who filed the bankruptcy filing is being paid by Emerdata, which was formed last year in London by many of the same people behind Cambridge Analytica and its parent, SCL Group. Its staff reportedly includes Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer.

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