Facebook has suspended data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica for harvesting data from more than 50 million user profiles and allegedly using the information to aid President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
According to a New York Times piece, which first exposed the data breach, ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, Cambridge Analytica received a $15 million investment from Republican donor Robert Mercer and “wooed” his political adviser, Steve Bannon. You know the latter as Donald Trump’s former chief White House strategist and the former executive chairman of Breitbart News.
Cambridge then paid University of Cambridge psychology professor Dr. Aleksandr Kogan for Facebook user data he had collected through an app. That’s a violation of the social media website’s policy, and such intel could in theory be used to attempt influence over voters.
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Kogan’s thisisyourdigitallife app was billed as “a research app used by psychologists,” and offered users a personality prediction. Roughly 270,000 people downloaded the app, Facebook said on Friday, giving consent for Kogan to access information on user location, content they “Liked,” and what Mark Zuckerberg’s company qualified as some “limited information” about friends without strict privacy settings.
Facebook said “Kogan lied to us” by passing data from his app to Cambridge Analytica. When Facebook learned of the violations in 2015, it removed Kogan’s app.
Furthermore, the social media platform “demanded certifications from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed,” it said.
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Everyone involved said they destroyed it the data though that may have been untrue, something Facebook says it found out just days ago.
“We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims,” Facebook said.
“We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information,” it continued. “We will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens. We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior.”
The New York Times said it inquired about the data’s destruction for a week, during which “Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control.”