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Why Facebook suspended data company
Facebook suspends Cambridge Analytica over claims data was used by Trump campaignUpdated 20 Mar 2018, 10:14pmPHOTO: Facebook called the alleged data retention an "unacceptable violation of trust". (Reuters: Dado Ruvic)Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica over allegations that it kept improperly obtained user data after telling the social media giant it had been deleted.It follows reports in The New York Times and The Guardian that one of the largest data leaks in Facebook history allowed Cambridge Analytica to develop techniques that formed the basis of its work on Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.The revelation led to Cambridge Analytica suspending its CEO, Alexander Nix, indefinitely after he was captured on hidden camera bragging about manipulating elections.Here's what happened and why it's significant.PHOTO: Alexander Nix was captured on hidden camera bragging about manipulating elections. (Reuters: Pedro Nunes )
What is Cambridge Analytica?It's a data analysis firm. It says it builds psychological profiles based on personal details from millions of Americans that can categorise individual voters.The company is probably best known for its political work during the 2016 US presidential campaign.Cambridge Analytica worked for both the primary campaign of Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Mr Trump's election campaign.According to Bloomberg, Steve Bannon served as vice-president and secretary of Cambridge Analytica from June 2014 to August 2016. In August 2016, Mr Bannon became CEO of the Trump campaign.
What are the allegations?The New York Times and The Guardian say Cambridge Analytica tapped the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission.That allowed it to capitalise on the private social media activity of a large portion of the US electorate.In a blog post, Facebook explained that Cambridge Analytica had years ago received user data from a Facebook app that purported to be a psychological research tool, though the firm was not authorised to have the information.Roughly 270,000 people downloaded and shared personal details with the app — and according to The Guardian, this included information about their Facebook friends.According to Facebook, Cambridge Analytica later certified in 2015 that it had destroyed the information it had received, but the social network said it received reports "several days ago" that not all the data was deleted.
What could be done with the data that was collected?Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica and the whistleblower behind the story, told The Guardian the personal information and resulting psychological and political profiles of Facebook users could be used to better target them with political ads."We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons," he said."That was the basis the entire company was built on."However, statistician Nate Silver, who rose to prominence for his polling analysis during the 2008 US presidential election, said the sophistication of Cambridge Analytica's methods shouldn't be over-estimated:
What is Facebook doing about it?The social media giant said it was investigating and would take legal action if necessary to hold all parties "responsible and accountable for any unlawful behaviour".It called the alleged data retention an "unacceptable violation of trust".Facebook has also suspended the access of Cambridge Analytica's parent company, Strategic Communication Laboratories, and University of Cambridge psychology academic Aleksandr Kogan, the man who created the app that was used to get the data.
How has Cambridge Analytica responded?It denied wrongdoing in a statement.It said the parent company's SCL Elections unit hired Dr Kogan to undertake "a large scale research project in the US", but subsequently deleted all data it received from Dr Kogan's company after learning that Dr Kogan had obtained data in violation of Facebook policies.The firm said none of Dr Kogan's data was used in its 2016 election work for the "avoidance of doubt".
How has the Trump campaign responded?It denied using Cambridge Analytic's data, saying it instead relied on information from the Republican National Committee (RNC)."The campaign used the RNC for its voter data and not Cambridge Analytica," it said in a statement."Using the RNC data was one of the best choices the campaign made. Any claims that voter data were used from another source to support the victory in 2016 are false."Trump campaign officials downplayed Cambridge Analytica's role, saying they briefly used the company for television advertising and paid some of its most skilled data employees.ABC/AP