The Justice Department and FBI are investigating Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct political data firm that created an international furor by harvesting private data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles, The New York Times reported.
Prosecutors have questioned former employees and banks that handled its business, telling potential witnesses there is an open investigation into the firm, the Times reported, citing unidentified sources. The probe of the company and its business practices appears to be in its early stages, according to the Times.
The federal investigation to focus on the company’s financial dealings — investigators have reached out to the company’s banks, for instance — and how it acquired and used personal data pulled from Facebook and other sources, according to the Times.
The Justice Department’s investigation is running parallel to a separate probe by the National Crime Agency of Britain, the Times reported. Those investigators are examining a range of allegations, including whether Cambridge Analytica employees sought to bribe foreign officials, destroyed evidence, hacked computers, and violated Britain’s Data Protection Act.
Cambridge Analytica has denied wrongdoing; it announced it would shut down earlier this month.
The Times reported there was no immediate comment from Cambridge Analytica, the Justice Department or the FBI.
Facebook has said Cambridge University lecturer Aleksandr Kogan collected the data legitimately through a personality quiz app but then allegedly violated Facebook’s terms by sharing the information with Cambridge Analytica, a firm later hired by the Trump presidential campaign during the 2016 election.
Facebook learned of the infraction in 2015 but did not inform the public. Instead, the company demanded all the parties involved destroy the information, but learned later it had not been erased.