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Facebook under fire over Cambridge Analytica data abuse

2018-03-19 14:17 by
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Facebook has recently suspended Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) and its political data analytics company, Cambridge Analytica, for violating its Terms of Service, by collecting and sharing the personal information of up to 50 million users without their consent.

The suspension of the two companies came a day before a pair of reports in the The New York Times and The Observer about how Cambridge Analytica obtained and used the personal information of 50 million users to design voter profiles to target political advertising during the 2016 election.

Facebook confirmed that the data came from University of Cambridge psychology professor Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, who created an app called "thisisyourdigitallife," in 2015, which 270,000 people downloaded. The app gave Kogan permission to access information from the users' accounts, as well as information about their friends.

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."

The incident is demonstrative of ways that Facebook's core business model — delivering individualized ads to users — can be exploited, while raising uncomfortable questions about how such data might have been used to influence the 2016 presidential campaign.

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