Cambridge Analytica acting Chief Executive Officer Alexander Tayler is stepping down amid the Facebook privacy scandal that kept the company in the center of the news cycle in recent weeks, the American political consulting and data research firm said Wednesday. The move is formally a demotion, with Mr. Tayler being set to return to his old position of Chief Data Officer so as to "focus on the various technical investigations and inquiries," according to Cambridge Analytica's Board of Directors. The comment references numerous probes that are presently targeting the New York City-based business which purchased data of tens of millions of Facebook users in the summer of 2014, having been accused of leveraging it in order to create political profiles of Americans and attempt influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, a notion that Cambridge Analytica repeatedly denied, claiming it deleted the improperly mined data over a year earlier.
Mr. Tayler's short stint as the company's CEO started three weeks ago after the firm suspended its full-time chief Alexander Nix who has been personally implicated in the 2014 incident. No new acting CEO has been named and the current state of day-to-day operations at Cambridge Analytica remains unclear, with its board only describing recent developments as "a challenging time" for doing business. The consulting service provider purchased data of up to 87 million Facebook users, mostly Americans, from one Aleksandr Kogan, a data scientist that created a quiz app which mined information from both its players and their Facebook friends, with the latter group not being aware of that practice or giving consent to be subjected to it.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the social media giant is considering suing Mr. Kogan during a congressional hearing but the Menlo Park-based Internet juggernaut has yet to clarify its plans for dealing with Cambridge Analytica, save for financing an independent audit of the company's servers to verify whether it truly deleted the controversial data in 2015 like it claims it did. The incident may have widespread consequences for digital advertising businesses in the country and could lead to new regulations that will place a lot more scrutiny over large-scale data collection practices employed by the likes of Facebook and Google.