Before news broke that it had improperly obtained millions of Facebook users' data and undercover videos showed executives listing entrapment among the nefarious ways it could halt political opponents, Cambridge Analytica was reportedly working on a digital currency. And, interestingly, the cryptocurrency was apparently going to be marketed as a way to fund a system through which users could store and sell their online data. Sources told Reuters that the data firm had consulted a company on how to structure an initial coin offering (ICO).
A Cambridge Analytica spokesperson didn't discuss the ICO but did tell Reuters, "Prior to the Facebook controversy, we were developing a suite of technologies to help individuals reclaim their personal data from corporate entities and to have full transparency and control over how their personal data are used. We were exploring multiple options for people to manage and monetise their personal data, including blockchain technology." And while that seems laughable in light of all of the recent discoveries about the firm and its actions, former Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser told the New York Times, "Who knows more about the usage of personal data than Cambridge Analytica? So why not build a platform that reconstructs the way that works?"
Cambridge Analytica was also reportedly involved in the creation of a digital token called the Dragon Coin, which was designed to help gamblers get their money into Macau casinos and has been linked to an infamous Macau gangster.
Cryptocurrencies and ICOs have come under intense scrutiny in the US. The SEC formed a Cyber Unit last year and has brought fraud charges against a number of individuals and companies, as has the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The SEC also issued a warning that it was "looking closely" at companies that suddenly shift their interests to blockchain or digital currencies and it sent subpoenas and requests for information to a number of firms last month. The agency also warned celebrities about endorsing ICOs. In February, a study noted that nearly half of the ICOs launched in 2017 had already failed.