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Facebook bans Trump campaign’s data analytics firm for taking user data

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Facebook bans Trump campaign’s data analytics firm for taking user data
Facebook bans Trump campaign’s data analytics firm for taking user data

Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is suspending the Trump-affiliated data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, after learning that it failed to delete data that it had taken inappropriately from users of the social network, Facebook said late Friday.

Facebook said it was suspending the accounts of Strategic Communication Laboratories, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, as well as the accounts of University of Cambridge psychologist Aleksandr Kogan and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies.

Cambridge Analytica, a firm that specializes in using online data to create voter personality profiles in order to target users with political messages, ran data operations for Donald Trump's presidential campaign. 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. The company, which began working for the Trump campaign in June 2016, promised that its so-called "psychographic" profiles could predict the personality and political leanings of every adult in the United States.

The analytics firm was asked in December to turn over internal documents to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as part of the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

[Cruz campaign credits psychological data and analytics for its rising success]

Facebook said Kogan had requested and gained access to information from 270,000 Facebook members after they chose to download his app. The app, “thisisyourdigitallife,” offered a personality prediction and billed itself on Facebook as “a research app used by psychologists.”

The Facebook members gave their consent for Kogan to access information such as the city they set on their profile, the content they had liked and some limited information about friend groups and contacts. Kogan then broke Facebook's policies and passed the information to Cambridge Analytica and to Wylie. Facebook learned about Kogan's activities in 2015.

The company removed Kogan's app at the time and demanded certifications from Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan that the information he had shared had been destroyed. All three certified to Facebook that they had done so, but Facebook said it received reports several days ago that the data was not deleted.

“We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims,” the company said. “If true, this is another unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments they made. We are suspending SCL/Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan from Facebook, pending further information.”

Cambridge Analytica did not respond to immediate requests for comment.

The company's methods of data collection have been criticized by other researchers. “Cambridge Analytica overstates their capabilities because they play in the shadows. 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.

Facebook is under significant pressure to control and be more transparent about how political operatives use its platform. Russian agents abused the company’s systems to target millions of American voters with disinformation during the 2016 election.

The Trump campaign also made heavy use of Facebook, and the social network faced criticism for sending Facebook staff to embed with campaign staffers. Facebook said this was standard practice for large political and corporate spenders.

Facebook bans Trump campaign’s data analytics firm for taking user data
Elizabeth Dwoskin has been reporting from Silicon Valley since 2013. She was the Wall Street Journal's first full-time beat reporter covering big data and artificial intelligence. In 2016, she joined The Washington Post as Silicon Valley correspondent, becoming the paper's eyes and ears in the region and in the wider world of tech.
Follow @lizzadwoskin
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Pub Time : 2018-03-17 12:43:41 >> News list
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