Facebook has banned the analytics firm Strategic Communication Laboratories and its political arm, Cambridge Analytica, for failure to follow its rules regarding the handling of personal data. While some outlets have reported that this was the result of a breach, the social network denies this claim. In the company’s statement, Facebook VP and Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal said that the reports regarding a data breach were “completely false.”
Cambridge Analytica, which is best known for its work alongside Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, obtained the information from Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, who created an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” The app billed itself as a personality test and was downloaded by about 270,000 people. By downloading the app, the users gave permission for the app’s developers to access information regarding the city they lived in, what kind of content they liked on Facebook, and other general information.
While Kogan obtained the information legitimately and in accordance with Facebook’s’ rules, he then proceeded to violate those rules by sharing them with a third party — in this case, Cambridge Analytica.
“By passing information on to a third party, including SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, he violated our platform policies,” Grewal wrote. “When we learned of this violation in 2015, we removed his app from Facebook and demanded certifications from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed. Cambridge Analytica, Kogan, and Wylie all certified to us that they destroyed the data.”
Last week, Facebook received reports that not all of the data had been destroyed as as promised. Facebook has not yet verified these claims, but has chosen to suspend SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Kogan from the site while it investigates these accusations.
Facebook isn’t the only organization looking into Cambridge Analytica. The Guardian has reported that British Election Commission is investigating the organization in regards to the Brexit vote, which saw the U.K. vote to leave the European Union.
“We are investigating the circumstances in which Facebook data may have been illegally acquired and used,” said the Commission’s Elizabeth Denham. “It’s part of our ongoing investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes which was launched to consider how political parties and campaigns, data analytics companies and social media platforms in the UK are using and analysing people’s personal information to micro-target voters.”
Facebook itself has faced questions regarding how it handles user data as well.
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