Not to play the journalist getting all high and mighty, but it’s pretty unavoidable right now. There’s a direct connection between Channel 4’s bombshell report that exposed Cambridge Analytica in March and today’s news. Per the Wall Street Journal:
The company decided to close its doors because it was losing clients and facing mounting legal fees in the Facebook investigation, a person familiar with the matter said. The firm is shutting down effective Wednesday and employees have been told to turn in their computers.
As to what happens next, well, welcome to the shell game that is major business and politics. Per the Wall Street Journal from March:
Mr. Nix appears to retain the confidence of Rebekah Mercer. On the same mid-March day that Facebook announced it would suspend Cambridge Analytica from buying ads because of the allegations it had illicitly gathered user data, Ms. Mercer and her sister Jennifer joined the board of a new company, Emerdata Ltd., headquartered at the same address as Cambridge Analytica’s British affiliate, according to a British corporate filing. Another board member: Alexander Nix.
Alexander Nix is the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica. Remember Blackwater and how it was disgraced over its war crimes in Iraq becoming public? It was renamed Xe Services in 2009, and again changed to Academi in 2011. No matter the name of the company, Erik Prince has stood as CEO, and he still has political clout to this very day.
The lesson, as always, is that evil can never be stamped out, it just gets perpetually rebranded. Channel 4’s investigation proved that Cambridge Analytica were not the data geniuses they purported to be, but just another group of political hucksters working from the same ageless playbook as nearly infinitely others have before them—the same way that Blackwater, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves these days, are following the long tradition of mercenaries unbound by the laws of civility. Cambridge Analytica may be gone, but their legacy will continue to live on in the age of big data, no matter the vessel.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.