'It's not just us. Hundreds of firms used Facebook data'
Cambridge Analytica makes things even worse for beleaguered Mark Zuckerberg
Cambridge Analytica, the company at the centre of the Facebook data scandal, has alleged hundreds of companies are harvesting personal information from social network users, a claim that could spell trouble for Mark Zuckerberg as he faces Congress.
The political research company, which was employed by the Trump campaign in the run-up to the US presidential election, released a statement on Monday night in an attempt to quell the media storm that has been brewing since it used data from a fake quiz app that siphoned personal information from millions of Facebook users.
Acting chief executive Alexander Tayler said: “Cambridge Analytica did not ‘hack’ Facebook. A research company (GSR) licensed the data to us, which they legally obtained via a tool provided by Facebook.“Hundreds of data firms have utilised Facebook data in a similar fashion. To be clear: Cambridge Analytica did not illegally or inappropriately collect or share data with anybody else. Cambridge Analytica has not broken [Federal Election Commission] regulations.”
The claim came as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg prepared for a grilling from the Senate on Tuesday evening. The 33-year-old billionaire prepared for his two-day testimony – a rare public appearance – by meeting senators and staging a press conference.
“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well,” he said before his testimony to Congress. “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”In 2007, Facebook changed the way its program worked to allow more integration with friends’ personal data, such as allowing a calendar to show their birthdays or maps revealing where they lived.
To do this, it allowed people to log in to apps and share who their friends were and some of their profile information.
In 2013 a Cambridge University researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, created a quiz app called thisisyourdigitallife, which was installed by 270,000 people, giving him access to information about 87 million people.Zuckerberg says Facebook changed the level of control apps had in 2014 to prevent this sort of information sharing. But Kogan had already passed information on to Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica and blocked Canadian data firm AggregateIQ (AIQ), which is understood to have played a role in the Brexit referendum, over concerns it also improperly recorded Facebook profile information.AIQ has not addressed whether it used the same quiz to gather data on Facebook users, but absolved any relationship with Cambridge Analytica on its website, writing: “AggregateIQ has never been and is not a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL ... AggregateIQ works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where it operates. It has never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity. All work AggregateIQ does for each client is kept separate from every other client.
“AggregateIQ has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.”
New York-based data analytics company Cubeyou has also been suspended. Its website states that it has personal social network information on millions of people, but said that it had not used this data to target people with marketing.
– © The Daily Telegraph