Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Lie of the Day: ‘Cambridge Analytica Is Shutting Down’ Notifications

If you’re like me and have notifications turned on for several news apps, you probably got a flood of alerts today proclaiming that Cambridge Analytica was shutting down.1 Here’s what Ben Collins, Anna R. Schecter, and Vladimir Banic of NBC News wrote:

Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL are shutting down, citing a “siege of media coverage” that drove away its customers, NBC News has confirmed.

The data gathering firm at the center of Facebook’s controversy over user privacy has been under intense scrutiny from both the U.S. and U.K. governments for pushing advertisements to potential voters on the social network using improperly obtained profile data.

“The company is immediately ceasing all operations,” the data firm announced in a surprise statement on Wednesday, noting that “parallel bankruptcy proceedings will soon be commenced.”

There’s only one problem with this announcement: it isn’t representative of what’s actually happening, as is revealed later in this NBC report:

Paperwork filed with the British government last month, however, shows that many of Cambridge Analytica‘s top executives have been preparing to staff up a separate data firm under a new name: Rebekah Mercer and her sister Jennifer joined the board of a new data gathering company called Emerdata on March 16, but it is unclear what their roles will be.

In a British government filing declaring her new role as director at Emerdata, Rebekah Mercer listed her correspondence address as 597 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan — Cambridge Analytica’s New York office.

I doubt anyone actually believes that this is little more than a rebranding, but headlines on the reportage around this — including the one for this NBC report — give the impression that Cambridge Analytica’s overall operations are ceasing. That clearly isn’t the case, and the headlines should more accurately reflect that.

  1. The Times had a more relevant notification too, but I think I opened the app and it disappeared. ↩︎