June 22, 2018

Facebook suspends Cambridge Analytica over data harvesting; 50 million profiles compromised

19 March 2018, 12:20 | Sam Montgomery

Facebook suspends Cambridge Analytica over data harvesting; 50 million profiles compromised

Political data firm Cambridge Analytica suspended by Facebook after expose'

Facebook along with its executives encountered a torrent of backlash this Saturday after the news reports, disclosing that the Cambridge Analytica data firm, which worked on the 2016 Trump campaign, improperly collected private information from nearly 50 million Facebook users.

Facebook has also suspended the access of Cambridge Analytica's parent company, Strategic Communication Laboratories, and University of Cambridge psychology academic Aleksandr Kogan, the man who created the app that was used to get the data.

The company has surfaced on several occasions in probes of 2016 Russian election interference.

"If facebuck (sic) and Zuckerberg wanted to make a statement they should sue Cambridge Analytica, their employees, investors & partners", investor and author Jason Calacanis said on Twitter. Roughly 270,000 people downloaded and shared personal details with the app.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said she would launch an investigation because "residents deserve answers immediately".

Facebook insisted the data was misused but not stolen, because users gave permission, sparking a debate about what constitutes a hack that must be disclosed to customers.

Did President Uhuru Kenyatta's campaign team use Kenyan data on social media to shape his campaign in the run-up to last year's general election?

Why Cambridge Analytica has been in the news?

The information was then handed over to The Trump Campaign when it hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 and later transferred to digital marketing firm Giles-Parscale, which used it to run various targeted advertising campaigns. While his campaign has quietly tried to distance itself from the data firm, no one has given any indication that they have a problem with the allegedly fraudulent - and potentially illegal - practices that were used to help Trump win the presidency.

"Whether it's allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it's clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency", he said.

"We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles".

In a letter to the committee last month, Cambridge Analytica's CEO Alexander Nix denied suggestions that the company "gathers data from users on Facebook".

Republican Senator Marco Rubio said he believed some internet companies have grown too fast to digest their responsibilities and obligations.

The American data analysis firm - which is not associated with the famous British university - is well known for the role it played in President Trump's election campaign, where it provided intricate data on the thoughts of American voters. Notably, Trump's former presidential advisor Steve Bannon was on its board of directors.

The firm said none of Dr Kogan's data was used in its 2016 election work for the "avoidance of doubt". "People chose to share their data with third-party apps and if those third-party apps did not follow the agreements with us/users, it is a violation". Facebook said Kogan gained access to profile and other information "in a legitimate way" but "did not subsequently abide by our rules" when he passed the data to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Wylie. And it's no longer letting developers who use Facebook's login tools see information on their users' friends.

Facebook said it cut ties to Kogan's app when it learned of the violation, and asked for certification from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed.

An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica's drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm - and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics - under scrutiny from investigators and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.

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