NEW YORK – Jennifer and Rebekah Mercer, daughters of Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer, are liquidating Cambridge Analytica, the troubled data-collection agency that worked for President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign and caused a global Facebook privacy scandal in recent months.
The British firm filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection late Thursday in New York.
The Mercer sisters, who are majority shareholders of Cambridge Analytica, bought their father’s stake in the pro-Trump website Breitbart News in late 2017.
Cambridge Analytica has come under scrutiny for possible links to the federal probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 president election and fallen into the crosshairs of special counsel Robert Mueller.
The data-collection agency filed papers to begin insolvency proceedings in the U.K. earlier this month. At the time, it blamed “unfairly negative media coverage” and said it had been “vilified” for actions it said were both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising.
Cambridge Analytica has insisted that none of the Facebook data it acquired from an academic researcher was used in the Trump campaign. The company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an app that purported to be a personality test. The app collected data on tens of millions of people and their Facebook friends, even those who did not download the app themselves.
Facebook has since tightened its privacy restrictions, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in two days of hearings. Facebook also has suspended other companies for using similar tactics. One is Cubeyou, which makes personality quizzes. That company has said it did nothing wrong and is seeking reinstatement.
Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO Alexander Nix in March pending an investigation after Nix boasted of various services to an undercover reporter for Britain’s Channel 4 News. Channel 4 News broadcast clips that showed Nix saying his data-mining firm played a major role in securing Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential elections.
Acting CEO Alexander Tayler also stepped down in April and returned to his previous post as chief data officer.
On Thursday, British lawmakers investigating the use of Facebook users’ data in political campaigns said that Nix accepted a summons to appear before Parliament’s media committee. He will appear June 6.
Separately, it was announced that Zuckerberg will meet with leaders of the European Parliament in a closed-door meeting Tuesday about the data protection scandal that has engulfed his company.
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