Everything you want to know about Cambridge Analytica

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 21, 2018, 04.35 PM (IST)

Cambridge Analytica has become the media's centre of attention in the United States and Britain and on Wednesday it became infamous in India as well.

Also read: Indian website 'Ovleno' currently unavailable in Cambridge Analytica-Facebook

The firm is now facing a government search of its London office, questions from US state authorities, and a demand by Facebook that it submit to a forensic audit.

Here is some of what is known about the company.

Also read: UK PM May's party was approached by Cambridge Analytica, but no work undertaken says Spokesman

What is Cambridge Analytica and what do they do?

A branch of SCL group, Cambridge Analytica works on everything from security research to counter-narcotics to political campaigns.

According to the New York Times report, Cambridge Analytics -- created around 2013 -- was initially focused 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 news report further states that the company assisted Republican Senator Ted Cruz's presidential campaign before they assisted in Trump's 2016 campaign.

Cambridge Analytica markets itself as providing consumer research, targeted advertising and other data-related services to both political and corporate clients.

Though the company's corporate clients have not listed on their site there two sections - CA commercial and political.

Under the CA political portfolio section names like Donald Trump campaign, Ted Cruz, Thom Tillis, Ben Carson etc were mentioned.

Britain's Channel 4 News reported on Monday, based on a secretly recorded video, that Cambridge Analytica secretly stage-managed Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta's campaigns in the hotly contested 2013 and 2017 elections. 

However, the reports were denied by the Cambridge Analytica.

The company's website lists five office locations in New York, Washington, London, Brazil and Malaysia.

Screengrab of the website of Cambridge Analytica. (Zee News Network)

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When did it first get attention?

The Company first got recognition after Trump won the 2016 presidential elections with the firm's help after the Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix reportedly went on to more clients to pitch his services. 

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.

Brad Parscale, who ran Trump's digital operations in 2016 though has refused to use Cambridge Analytica's data instead they relied on voter data from a Republican National Committee operation.

What is it accused of?

The company is accused of illegally "mining data" of 50 million Facebook users that deceives both users and Facebook.

According to reports the data was harvested through an application developed by British academic Aleksandr Kogan.

According to a report by Reuters, some 270,000 people downloaded the application and logged in with their Facebook credentials, after which the application gathered their data and data about their friends which passed on to Cambridge Analytica by Kogan.

However, in a statement by Cambridge Analytica said that it did not initially know about Kogan violating Facebook's terms and they deleted the data once they found out in 2015.

But newspapers have reported that data has not been deleted. Cambridge Analytica has denied the allegations.

Reuters report quoted Facebook saying that it is investigating to verify the accuracy of the claim.

What happens next?

According to the Reuters report, Facebook has hired forensic auditors from the firms Stroz Friedberg for the audit and it is also pressurising Cambridge Analytica for further answers.

Facebook has further said that while they investigate it has suspended Cambridge Analytica, its parent SCL, Kogan and another man, Christopher Wylie, formerly of Cambridge Analytica, from its platform for violating Facebook rules.

Government authorities of USA and UK are also investigating the matter.

According to Reuters, the UK Information Commissioner's Office is pursuing a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica's office and asked Facebook's auditors to stand down in the meantime.

(With inputs from Reuters)