Remember the “Non Story” that was Cambridge Analytica data? The one brought to us by the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, who was ridiculed by those out on the right for doing so? The one featuring parent company SCL and obscure Canadian offshoot Aggregate IQ, the firm that got involved in the EU referendum? Well, “Non Story” it wasn’t.
We can say this with some certainty because, after Ms Cadwalladr brought us the story, whistleblowers like Chris Wylie and Shahmir Sanni fleshed out the details, and those on the Leave side in the referendum resorted to some desperate tactics to cover their tracks, has come the news that Cambridge Analytica is to close. And so is its parent SCL.
As the BBC has reported, “Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy at the centre of the Facebook data-sharing scandal, is shutting down … its parent company SCL Elections [is] also commencing bankruptcy proceedings”. The Guardian concurred: “Cambridge Analytica, the data firm at the centre of this year’s Facebook privacy row, is closing and starting insolvency proceedings”. Their clients had all run away.
Or had they? Hadas Gold of CNN put it this way: “Cambridge Analytica is no more. Says it is shutting down because of the ‘siege of media coverage’ has driven away ‘virtually all’ of their customers and suppliers … Unless of course maybe they’re all just moving over to a new company”. Scott Dworkin put that rather more directly.
“Cambridge Analytica, a shell company, is shutting down. The same people already started a separate shell data company. Keep the investigation going. They shouldn’t be allowed to close entirely while under investigation. What evidence will they try to destroy? Probably all of it”. Got that? Now the story is evidence destruction. Eyes on the ball.
And Carole Cadwalladr was already piecing the new jigsaw together: “Cambridge Analytica folds...why now?? Today [Chris Vickery] revealed two crucial ‘indisputable’ facts. It’s absolutely linked to AIQ & Brexit. And Trump campaign had access to psych profiles derived from Facebook data”. There was more.
“This is screenshot of legal letter Cambridge Analytica sent to @Guardian & Observer: ‘Cambridge Analytica has no employees and very few assets.’ It is a sham company. Last week, it held a sham press conference. It's just issued a sham report. So...what's really going on??” What was really going on was the question she then addressed.
“The news that Cambridge Analytica is shutting down is not some great triumph. It’s a billionaire using Britain’s insolvency laws to try & evade scrutiny - at the cost of his employees. We need a criminal investigation. And we need evidence secured. The question is how?” The story has not gone away. It’s just that the focus has changed.
The same Guardian report also pointed out “the team behind it has already set up a mysterious new company called Emerdata. According to Companies House data, Alexander Nix is listed as a director along with other executives from SCL Group. The daughters of the billionaire Robert Mercer are also listed as directors”.
What has happened is a mere ruse to distract attention while evidence is wiped. The dirty dealing never went away. It just figured out how to run and hide.