Scandal-hit political analysis firm Cambridge Analytica has blamed the “siege of media coverage” as it announced it is closing down.
The move comes after the company admitted making mistakes over the misuse of data harvested from Facebook accounts.
But it also said it had been “vilified’ for legal activities that are a “standard component” of advertising in the political world.
SCL Group, parent company of Cambridge Analytica, is closing in the wake of rising legal costs in the Facebook investigation and loss of clients.
The company said in a statement: “The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers,”
“As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business, which left Cambridge Analytica with no realistic alternative to placing the company into administration.”
Up to 87 million people had data harvested by an app which was then acquired by Cambridge Analytica, according to Facebook.
The app, a personality survey called “yourdigitallife”, collected personal data from users and their Facebook friends, in line with the behaviour of many similar apps at the time.
It allowed CA to tailor specific political adverts to small groups of people, already knowing what their likes and interests were, it is alleged.
Cambridge Analytica played a key role in mapping out the behaviour of voters in the run-up to the 2016 US election that saw Donald Trump elected.
“Over the past several months, Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of numerous unfounded accusations and, despite the company’s efforts to correct the record, has been vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas,” the company’s statement said.
Damian Collins, chairman of parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee - which is scrutinising Cambridge Analytica - said the firms “cannot be allowed to delete their data history by closing”.
“The investigations into their work are vital,” he said.
The firm is shutting down effective Wednesday and employees have been told to turn in their computers, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier.
Cambridge Analytica is a part of SCL Group, a government and military contractor that says it works on everything from food security research to counter-narcotics to political campaigns. SCL was founded more than 25 years ago, according to its website.
Cambridge Analytica was created around 2013 initially with a focus on US elections, with $15 million in backing from billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer and a name chosen by future Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, the New York Times reported.
Cambridge Analytica marketed itself as providing consumer research, targeted advertising and other data-related services to both political and corporate clients.
After Trump won the White House in 2016, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix went to more clients to pitch his services, the Times reported last year.
The company boasted it could develop psychological profiles of consumers and voters which was a “secret sauce” it used to sway them more effectively than traditional advertising could.
One unanswered question in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether there was any collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia is whether Russia’s Internet Research Agency or Russian intelligence used data Cambridge Analytica obtained from Facebook or other sources to help target and time anti-Hillary Clinton, pro-Trump and politically and racially divisive messages during the election.
Bannon was a former vice president of the London-based firm, and Mueller has asked it to provide internal documents about how its data and analyses were used in the Trump campaign, according to sources familiar with the investigation.