Facebook suspends data firm tied to Trump campaign

Gwen Vasquez
March 18, 2018

Facebook said late Friday (March 16) it was suspending the accounts of Strategic Communication Laboratories, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

Allegations against it centre on a professor from the University of Cambridge, Aleksandr Kogan, who designed a personality testing Facebook app called thisisyourdigitallife.

Everyone involved said they destroyed the data - though that may have been untrue, something Facebook said it found out just days ago.

"That was the basis that the entire company was built on", data scientist Christopher Wylie, who worked at Cambridge Analytica, told The Observer. "We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims". But what Facebook didn't say may be more important: The number of people affected by this aggressive form of data grabbing likely numbered in the tens of millions.

Special counsel Robert Mueller in December called for company documents as part of his investigation into possible election collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation. The company was funded by Trump supporter and hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and the president's former senior adviser Stephen K. Bannon once sat on its board.

This allowed GSR and Cambridge Analytica to build highly detailed profiles of 50 million people, despite the fact only 270,000 people agreed to have their data collected.

Facebook in its statement described a rocky relationship with Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie going back to 2015.

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Speaking to US National Public Radio host Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air on Monday, Clinton said she was probing what happened with Kenya's presidential election and why the Supreme Court invalided it.

"We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behaviour", Grewal said.

Wylie said that "almost none" of the people whose profiles were tapped were aware that Cambridge Analytica had harvested their data.

Like all app developers, Kogan requested and gained access to information from people after they chose to download his app.

The New York Times said interviews with half a dozen former Cambridge Analytica employees and contractors, and a review of the firm's emails and documents, revealed it not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of it.

Facebook in a blog says Cambridge Analytica which was accused of working for Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta during the last general elections failed to deleted data that it had acquired inappropriately from hundreds of thousands of users on the social network. Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan have been suspended from Facebook.

The app, created in November 2013, asked users for permission to access their profile information - and also that of their friends'. It added, "Cambridge Analytica convinced Parscale to "try out the firm". They willingly cheat and ignore privacy rules and data ethics in order to win", said social media analyst Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

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