FBI, Justice Department Investigating Cambridge Analytica

Authorities probing finances, data-mining practices of firm at center of Facebook scandal

The FBI and the Justice Department have opened an investigation into Cambridge Analytica. Credit: Rob Pinney/LNP/REX/Shutterstock

The Justice Department and the FBI have opened investigations into Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct firm at the center of the Facebook data scandalThe New York Times reports.

Though the investigation is reportedly in its early stages, it seems to be focusing on Cambridge Analytica's business dealings and finances, as well as how it acquired and utilized data pulled from Facebook and other sources. In March, The New York Times and The Guardian reported that Donald Trump's presidential campaign hired Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, Strategic Communications Laboratories, to harvest data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles to predict the behavior of American voters. The data was allegedly taken without users' consent and used to target ads to likely Trump supporters.

Authorities have reportedly started speaking with banks that worked with Cambridge Analytica, as well as former employees, including Christopher Wylie, who was one of The Guardian's primary sources. Investigators have also reportedly been in touch with Facebook, though few details about that inquiry were available.

News of the investigation comes just weeks after Cambridge Analytica and SCL announced they were shutting down and filing for bankruptcy. SCL chairman Julian Wheatland reportedly said the decision was made in light of the ongoing investigations that resulted from the Facebook data scandal, harm to the company's reputation and client loss.

Still, Cambridge Analytica has denied any wrongdoing. In the statement announcing their shuttering, the firm said, "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."

Along with facing scrutiny from the FBI and Justice Department, the National Crime Agency of Britain is also investigating Cambridge Analytica. The scope of that inquiry reportedly includes allegations of whether Cambridge Analytica employees tried to bribe foreign officials, destroyed evidence or hacked computers.