Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Trump campaign data firm accused of harvesting Facebook data

Illustration by Alex Castro  The Verge Illustration by Alex Castro The Verge
Oscar Goodwin | 18 March, 2018, 02:17

Ultimately, the New York Times reports, Kogan provided Cambridge with "50 million raw profiles", of which "roughly 30 million contained enough information, including places of residence, that the company could match users to other records" and build what Cambridge called "psychographic profiles".

Facebook on Friday suspended an analytics firm best known for its work on the Donald Trump campaign for scraping Facebook users' data without their permission for political targeting, and lying about having destroyed it.

Facebook has announced that it suspended Cambridge Analytics and Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) Group from its platform for fraudulently obtaining Facebook user data and then using it to run election ads on United States president Donald Trump's behalf.

Cambridge Analytica spent almost $1 million on data collection, which yielded more than 50 million individual profiles that could be matched to electoral rolls. About 30 million of those profiles, mostly of USA voters, contained enough information to connect them to other data sources and build detailed profiles. Good. But also remember that Facebook built its entire business model on vacuuming up as much intimate information about all of us as possible and then selling it to advertisers.

The data breach, which was previously reported as far back as 2015, is one of the largest in Facebook's history.

At the centre of the row is University of Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan who, according to Facebook, made a "personality app" that gathered data he then sold to third parties.

"However, the app also collected the information of the test-takers' Facebook friends, leading to the accumulation of a data pool tens of millions-strong", the Observer reported. The social media provider added that Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan had told the company that all the data initially obtained by the app had been destroyed.

He warns that the social network will take "legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behaviour".

Facebook's Grewal said the company was taking the unusual step of announcing the suspension "given the public prominence" of Cambridge Analytica and its parent organization.

Wylie provided The Observer with a dossier of evidence illustrating Cambridge Analytica's misuse of the data, including emails, invoices, contracts, and bank transfers that point to the scope of the breach. Facebook learned about Kogan's activities in 2015.

Last September, former USA presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called Kenya's annulled presidential election "a project" of Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica broke Facebook's rules and got shut down. The company was hired to help with voter outreach by the Trump campaign, whose former campaign manager, Steve Bannon, had been on the company's board.

This is the question on many people's mind after reports emerged that a firm hired by Jubilee Party mined Facebook data to shape Donald Trump's election as USA president.

He said the campaign used voter data from a Republican-affiliated organisation rather than Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook said that Kogan had requested and gained access to information from 270,000 Facebook members after they chose to download his app.

Cambridge Analytica uses the controversial practice called psychographics that microtarget ads based on personality. Even more stunning, though the firm told Facebook that it had deleted all the data, it turns out that Cambridge Analytics "still possesses most or all of the trove".

They certified to Facebook that they had done so, the company said, but it said on Friday that it had received recent reports that the data was not deleted.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica $5 million to help target voters.

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