Facebook suspends Cambridge Analytica over handling of user data

Facebook announced that it has suspended political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica over the way the firm handled user data.

“Given the public prominence of this organization, we want to take a moment to explain how we came to this decision and why,” Facebook VP and deputy general counsel Paul Grewel said in a news release on Friday.

Grewel said that Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, “lied” to Facebook in 2015 and violated the company’s “Platform Policies” by passing data from a personality prediction app for Facebook users called “thisisyourdigitallife” to Cambridge Analytica and Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) – without informing users.

According to Facebook, Kogan’s app was downloaded by 270,000 people who gave their consent for Kogan to access personal information such as the city they set on their profile, content they had liked, or more limited information about friends who had their privacy settings set to allow it.

Facebook said that the parties involved agreed to destroy all the data at the time.

However, on Friday Grewel said, “several days ago, we received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted. We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims.”

Facebook’s role in targeting voters in the US presidential election

Christopher Wylie, who worked with Kogan to obtain the data, told the Observer: “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. That was the basis the entire company was built on.”

The Guardian reports that the discovery of the “unprecedented” data harvesting has raised “urgent new questions about Facebook’s role in targeting voters in the US presidential election.”