Federal investigators are reportedly investigating Cambridge Analytica, the political firm implicated in a data privacy scandal.
The Justice Department and the FBI have opened an inquiry into the now-defunct company, according to the New York Times, speaking to former employees and banks that worked with the company.
Cambridge Analytica obtained Facebook profile information encompassing as many as 87 million users, a transfer that was not revealed until after the company had gone on to work for the Trump presidential campaign.
An ensuing uproar has since led the company to cease operations amid an exodus of customers. But the data transfer’s aftermath is continuing to unfold.
How the company came into possession of and then used personal information is of particular interest investigators, who were said to have reached out to Facebook.
A survey app developed by Aleksandr Kogan harvested the data of both users and their friends, Facebook has said, which was then passed to Cambridge Analytica. The company failed to delete the data despite certifying it had, Facebook said (Cambridge Analytica disputes this).
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While Cambridge Analytica has said the information gathered by Mr Kogan was not used in service of the Trump campaign, the consulting firm’s potential role in both Donald Trump’s election and the Brexit vote has attracted intense interest.
In the runup to the presidential election, Cambridge Analytica touted its ability to appeal to distinct segments of the electorate with what it called “psychographic” profiling – an approach that dovetailed with the Trump campaign’s embrace of Facebook’s tools to precisely target advertisements to certain groups.
A prominent backer of the company, Robert Mercer, and his daughter have used their wealth to gain substantial clout in Republican politics – including by supporting the far-right news website Breitbart, whose chairman Steve Breitbart who initially was one of Mr Trump’s closest counselors.
In the UK, members of Parliament have uncovered evidence of what they call linkages between Cambridge Analytica and the Brexit campaign.
The UK’s information commissioner earlier this month ordered the company to turn over all the data it had collected on an American professor.