As bad as things may seem for Facebook in the wake of the data sharing scandal, things are even worse for Cambridge Analytica. The political consulting firm has been accused of accessing and exploiting Facebook data without users' consent, amongst other things. The company isn't all too happy about all the negative press, so it's trying to distance itself from the accusations levelled at it.
The company has posted a series of "facts" that challenge the allegations, including mentioning the fact that it didn't do anything illegal. It insists that it not "illegally or inappropriately" obtain or share Facebook user data, and maintains that it only uses information with user's informed consent. Hmm. It also adamantly insists that it didn't use this data to influence the 2016 US presidential election or the Brexit referendum. The former supposedly utilised data from the Republican National Convention, US voter registry, consensual data, and commercial data brokers, while it says the Brexit marketing and software work was handed over to subcontractor AggregateIQhttp://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2018/04/facebook-boots-yet-another-companys-account-for-extensive-ties-to-cambridge-analytica/. The company itself apparently didn't do any work for either side of the campaign.
Cambridge Analytica also maintains that it's an affiliate of SCL Elections, and not the same company. It also used that opportunity to distance itself from Christopher Wylie, denying claims that he's a whistleblower and co-founder of the company. It insists that Wylie was simply a contractor for SCL and had "no recent knowledge" of what the company was doing since he supposedly left that work in July 2014. On top of that the company claims he founded a competing company, Eunoia Technologies, that did try and work for both the Trump campaign and Vote Leave. Cambridge Analytica claims was a violation of his non-disclosure agreement an took legal action - action which was resolved in August 2015.
Finally it claims that it didn't receive data from 87 million users, as Facebook claims, instead maintaining that it was "only" 30 million. Furthermore, it's going through an independent third-party audit to try and prove it deleted the data when it was supposed to.
Acting CEO Alexander Tayler said, in a statement:
“It has become open season for critics to say whatever they like about us based on speculation and hearsay. Conjecture and rumor is being portrayed as fact which is damaging and unfair to the company, its employees, and its clients. It would be impossible to address the hundreds of articles and broadcast segments that have misrepresented Cambridge Analytica or replicated false statements made by those focused on creating a political scandal.”
None of this is surprising, however, since any company would do everything it can to refute any sort of accusations levelled at it. As Engadget points out, the company itself may gather information with permission, but one of its sources did not. If you paid attention to the story in its beginnings you'll have heard of thisisyourdigitallife, which collected user data under the guise of academic research - and not just from profiles that opted in and gave consent to share their data.
In the end Cambridge Analytica can say plenty of things about its involvement in the scandal, but what happens next isn't up to them, or Facebook. It's up to governments and regulators who are in the process of investigating the entire situation - including the US Federal Trade Commission and the Information Commissioner's Office. Cambridge Analytica insisted that it was complying with the investigations by the ICO, and presumably will comply with any other government regulators that target it directly. Maybe the company has been treated unfairly, and rampant rumours have damaged its reputation, but what it does do isn't particularly nice and we shouldn't be forced to feel sorry for them. [Cambridge Analytica via Engadget]