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Facebook Sued By D.C. Over Data Use of Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump's presidential campaign at one point, gained access to personal data from tens of millions of Facebook's users.

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Facebook kills over 300 Russia-linked fake accounts, Pages, (VOA)

The attorney general for Washington, D.C., said Wednesday that the nation’s capital had sued Facebook over reports involving Cambridge Analytica ‘s use of data from the social media giant.

“Facebook failed to protect the privacy of its users and deceived them about who had access to their data and how it was used,” Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement. “Facebook put users at risk of manipulation by allowing companies like Cambridge Analytica and other third-party applications to collect personal data without users’ permission.”

The lawsuit came as Facebook faced new reports that it shared its users’ data without their permission.

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This photograph taken on May 16, 2018, shows a figurine standing in front of the logo of social network Facebook on a cracked screen of a smartphone in Paris. VOA

Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign at one point, gained access to personal data from tens of millions of Facebook’s users. The D.C. attorney general said in the lawsuit that this exposed nearly half of the district’s residents’ data to manipulation for
political purposes during the 2016 campaign, and he alleged that Facebook’s “lax oversight and misleading privacy settings” had allowed the consulting firm to harvest the information.

Also Read: CBI Writes to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook And GSR Regarding Data Breach Cases

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (VOA)

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Facebook Downplayed Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal

In April 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Congress that it learned in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica had bought data from an app developer on Facebook that people had shared it with

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FILE - Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, United States. VOA

Facebook in 2015 was aware that UK-based political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica may have been gathering users’ personal data but downplayed the whole episode till a newspaper revealed the truth three months later, show new documents.

According to a report in CNET on Friday, internal emails by Facebook Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal, made available by the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, revealed Facebook was concerned about the “sketchy” Cambridge Analytica in September 2015.

The email correspondence started in September 2015 and ran through February 2016.

The Guardian first reported that Cambridge Analytica was supporting Ted Cruz’s campaign using Facebook data through an online quiz. The political research firm later worked on US President Donald Trump’s campaign.

“We suspect many of these companies are doing similar types of scraping, the largest and most aggressive on the conservative side being Cambridge Analytica, a sketchy (to say the least) data modelling company that has penetrated our market deeply,” read an email dated September 22, 2015.

In a blog post late on Friday, Grewal said that they agree with the District of Columbia Attorney General to jointly make public a September 2015 document in which Facebook employees discuss public data scraping.

“We believe this document has the potential to confuse two different events surrounding our knowledge of Cambridge Analytica. There is no substantively new information in this document and the issues have been previously reported,” Grewal defended.

According to him, these are two distinct issues.

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FILE – In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, Calif. The Boston-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy announced in May that Facebook is building a… VOA

“One involved unconfirmed reports of scraping — accessing or collecting public data from our products using automated means — and the other involved policy violations by Aleksandr Kogan, an app developer who sold user data to Cambridge Analytica,” he elaborated.

Facebook said it was not aware that Kogan sold data to Cambridge Analytica until December 2015.

“That is a fact that we have testified to under oath, that we have described to our core regulators, and that we stand by today,” said Grewal.

In September 2015, a Facebook employee shared unsubstantiated rumours from a competitor of Cambridge Analytica, which claimed that the data analytics company was scraping public data.

An engineer looked into this concern and was not able to find evidence of data scraping.

According to Facebook, the first indication of Kogan’s involvement didn’t come until December 2015, three months later.

Also Read: India can Lead in Setting Standards for Ethical use of AI: Microsoft Executive

“Cambridge Analytica was a clear lapse for us, which we have worked hard to address,” said Grewal.

Cambridge Analytica harvested data through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” that offered personality predictions.

The Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” reveals the sordid tale of UK-based and now defunct political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica and its role in swaying US voters in the 2016 presidential elections which brought Trump to power via illegally accessing data of 87 million Facebook users.

In April 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Congress that it learned in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica had bought data from an app developer on Facebook that people had shared it with. (IANS)