50 million Facebook profiles of US voters harvested by data firm to aid Trump presidential campaign

 

Facebook is facing scrutiny following allegations that 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested without explicit consent and used by data company Cambridge Analytica to help the Trump presidential campaign. 

Facebook is accused of failing to alert users and taking only limited steps to recover and secure the private information.  Facebook denies that the transfer of data was a breach and says "Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do..."

Cambridge Analytica denies knowing the data was obtained improperly.

Articles contain further statements by the companies.

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Article
12 April 2018

Facebook remains unclear on commitment to extending EU General Data Protection Regulation worldwide

Author: Sarah Jeong, The Verge (US)

"Zuckerberg says Facebook will extend European data protections worldwide—kind of", 11 Apr 2018

…[B]efore the House Committee on Commerce and Energy, [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg stated that the changes Facebook is making in response to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be available worldwide. Zuckerberg made a commitment to not only provide the same privacy controls but making the same kinds of disclosures and treating users’ data the same. The GDPR imposes requirements on how user data is collected, and how user data must be deleted at the user’s request. However, only moments after giving a clear yes, he seemed to equivocate yet again… Zuckerberg was similarly ambiguous about whether this would be the case, possibly because his crib sheet… says in bolded text, “GDPR (Don’t say we already do what the GDPR requires)”… It’s not known whether Facebook is in GDPR compliance at the moment. The new rules go into effect on May 25th.

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Article
5 April 2018

Commentary: Facebook has been too casual about data for too long

Author: Rebecca Mackinnon, Ranking Digital Rights, Financial Times

…Despite changes to its privacy policies, Facebook fundamentally has not changed…Facebook’s proposed revisions to its privacy policies and terms of service for the first time since 2015 include improved disclosure about how data are used across its services and how users can control the retention and deletion of information. While the company has simplified and clarified its explanation about what is shared with advertisers and how, the practices described have not changed much. Options for users to delete some types of information are provided, but people are not given more control over what information is collected about them in the first place…

...Facebook gets credit for undertaking human rights risk assessments related to government censorship and surveillance demands, and demonstrating transparency about how it handles those demands…Facebook is a good example of how policies that fail to give users meaningful control over their data, along with poor disclosure about policies affecting their rights, are a sign of serious underlying risks to users that must not be ignored...

Since 2015 our analysis has consistently found that Facebook has disclosed fewer details about how it handles users’ information than most of its peers. In fact, Facebook has given users fewer options to control what is collected about them, and how it is used, than any other company evaluated in our corporate accountability index — including two Chinese and two Russian companies…

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Article
23 March 2018

Nordea's investment in Facebook on hold over Cambridge Analytica controversy

Author: Sasja Beslik, Ethical Corporation (UK)

" Why Nordea’s responsible investment funds have dropped Facebook" 23 Mar 2018. 

Facebook has...2.2 billion users –29% of the global population–...the amount of data available for monetisation...is massive. The...platform is bigger and more widely used than WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram combined...Facebook’s revenues have grown from $153m in 2007 to $40bn in 2017 and the majority of the revenue is thanks to these 1.8 trillion data pieces shared on annual basis.Simultaneously...the company has revised its data privacy policy...to further weaken consumer protection and monetise data.In its current data privacy policy, there is nothing...in regard to protecting sensitive data, requirements of consent by third parties for handling data, enhancing privacy in general or minimising data collection and retention. Recently, Facebook lost nearly 50 billion dollars in market cap on the news that Cambridge Analytica accessed data from 50 million users without consent.Furthermore, Facebook has been under investigation by regulators in Belgium, Germany, Spain, UK, Netherlands, France...Austria, Thailand, Indonesia, and the European Union. On the background of this...Nordea has put a temporary hold on investments in the stock for our sustainable funds on 21 March 2018.The ban is valid for three months, and will be reviewed at the end of the period.

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Article
21 March 2018

Facebook: 'The entire company is outraged we were deceived' by Cambridge Analytica

Author: Anita Balakrishnan, CNBC

Facebook released a statement Tuesday saying "the entire company is outraged" that data from 50 million accounts was allegedly deceptively used by political data firm Cambridge Analytica...Here's the full statement."Mark, Sheryl and their teams are working around the clock to get all the facts and take the appropriate action moving forward, because they understand the seriousness of this issue. The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people's information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens.It's not the first public response Facebook has made to the allegations. On Monday night, the social media company's vice president of marketing, Carolyn Everson, said at a New York City conference that the alleged behavior was "an incredible violation of everything that we stand for." Former employees of Cambridge Analytica — a firm publicly associated with President Donald Trump's campaign — said that Cambridge gathered private social media activity without users' permission. According to The New York Times, the firm paid to acquire the personal information through someone claiming to be an academic researcher.Cambridge Analytica has said those allegations are "false," and has denied further allegations in other reports. Cambridge Analytica's board said Tuesday it had suspended CEO Alexander Nix.

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Article
20 March 2018

Cambridge Analytica: Facebook boss summoned over data claims

Author: BBC News

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has been called on by a parliamentary committee to give evidence about the use of personal data by Cambridge Analytica. The consulting firm is accused of harvesting the data of 50 million Facebook users without permission and failing to delete it when told to. Damian Collins, the chairman of the Commons inquiry into fake news, accused Facebook of "misleading" the committee. London-based firm Cambridge Analytica denies any wrongdoing. Both companies are under scrutiny following claims by a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, who worked with Cambridge Analytica and alleges it amassed large amounts of data through a personality quiz on Facebook called This is Your Digital Life. He claims that 270,000 people took the quiz, but the data of some 50 million users, mainly in the US, was harvested without their explicit consent via their friend networks. Mr Wylie says that data was sold to Cambridge Analytica, which then used it to psychologically profile people and deliver pro-Trump material to them, with a view to influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. In a letter to Mr Zuckerberg, Mr Collins accused Facebook of giving answers "misleading to the Committee" at a previous hearing which asked whether information had been taken without users' consent.. UK's Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she would be applying to court for a warrant to search the offices of Cambridge Analytica. The firm insists it followed the correct procedures in obtaining and using data, but it was suspended from Facebook last week.

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Article
20 March 2018

Facebook Draws Scrutiny From FTC, Congressional Committees

Author: David McLaughlin, Ben Brody, Billy House, Bloomberg

Facebook Inc. is drawing scrutiny from the main U.S. privacy watchdog and half a dozen powerful congressional committees over how the personal data of 50 million users was obtained by a data analytics firm that helped elect President Donald Trump. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is probing whether Facebook violated terms of a 2011 consent decree over its handing of personal user data that was transferred to Cambridge Analytica without users’ knowledge, according to a person familiar with the matter. The FTC will be sending a letter to the company, another person said. Facebook slumped on the news, extending Monday’s decline. Facebook said it would conduct staff-level briefings of six committees Tuesday and Wednesday. That includes House and Senate Judiciary Committees, as well as the commerce and intelligence committees of both chambers. The FTC is the lead U.S. agency for enforcing companies’ adherence to their own privacy policies and could fine the company into the millions of dollars if it finds Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree. In an earlier statement Cambridge Analytica said it “strongly” denied “false allegations” in the media and said that the Facebook data at the center of the scandal wasn’t used as part of services provided to the Trump campaign....Facebook previously said in a statement it rejects "any suggestion of violation of the consent decree."We respected the privacy settings that people had in place," Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, said in an emailed statement. "Privacy and data protections are fundamental to every decision we make.

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Article
20 March 2018

Facebook Plunges as Pressure Mounts on Zuckerberg Over Data

Author: Sarah Frier, Bloomberg

Facebook Inc. shares posted their steepest drop since 2015 as U.S. and European officials demanded answers to reports that a political advertising firm retained information on millions of the social network’s users without their consent. Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are calling on Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear before lawmakers to explain how U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica, the data-analysis firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, was able to harvest the personal information. Facebook has already testified about how its platform was used by Russian propagandists ahead of the 2016 election, but the company never put Zuckerberg himself in the spotlight with government leaders. The pressure may also foreshadow tougher regulation for the social network.

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Article
20 March 2018

How Facebook can be used to target millions

Author: Hannah Kuchler, FT

Questions are being asked about how Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm, was allegedly able to harvest the data of more than 50m Facebook users. Chris Wylie, a former employee, told The New York Times, The Observer and Channel 4 News that the company was passed data collected by a separate company called Global Science Research. He says it used this information to create profiles on the respondents and their friends, and then targeted them with personalised political messages. Cambridge Analytica has denied using or holding Facebook data but this is how developers can pull data from the social network...

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Article
20 March 2018

Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach

Author: Carole Cadwalladr & Emma Graham-Harrison, Guardian (UK)

The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box. A whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how Cambridge Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements. Christopher Wylie, who worked with a Cambridge University academic 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.” Documents seen by the Observer, and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale. However, at the time it failed to alert users and took only limited steps to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million individuals. On Friday, four days after the Observer sought comment for this story, but more than two years after the data breach was first reported, Facebook announced that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and Kogan from the platform, pending further information over misuse of data. Separately, Facebook’s external lawyers warned the Observer it was making “false and defamatory” allegations, and reserved Facebook’s legal position.

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