NECN | MARCH 17, 2018
Massachusetts’ attorney general is launching an investigation into the data-analysis firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, which is facing allegations it kept inappropriately obtained user information after telling Facebook the company had deleted it.
Maura Healey announced the probe Saturday afternoon.
“Massachusetts residents deserve answers immediately from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica,” Healey tweeted. “We are launching an investigation.”
Facebook announced Friday that they had suspended the accounts of Strategic Communication Laboratories, including the company’s political data firm, Cambridge Analytica, after a University of Cambridge psychology professor passed on an app’s data that used a Facebook Login to SCL and Cambridge Analytica.
The app, “thisisyourdigitallife,” reportedly provided a personality test, and presented itself on social media as “a research app used by psychologists.” It was downloaded by about 270,000 people, according to Facebook, and allowed the psychology professor, Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, access to data such as location, pages they had liked, and even access to who their friends were, if their friends had lower privacy settings.
Kogan allegedly then passed along the data to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies.
Although Facebook did not release how many user profiles were affected, the New York Times reports that Cambridge Analytica ultimately amassed data from more than 50 million profiles as a result of the data provided by Kogan.
Cambridge Analytica reportedly told Facebook it had destroyed the data in 2015, but Facebook said it recently received reports that not all the data had been deleted.
“We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims,” Facebook VP & Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal wrote online. “If true, this is another unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments they made.”
Grewal said SCL/Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie may face legal action, in addition to having their accounts suspended.
Cambridge Analytica denied wrongdoing in a series of tweets online.
“Reality Check: Cambridge Analytica uses client and commercially and publicly available data; we don’t use or hold any Facebook data,” the firm said. “CA did not use any Facebook data for the 2016 Trump campaign.”
Facebook has faced controversy as a result of the company’s response to the 2016 election, including around the influence of Russian-bought ads.
Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica is facing scrutiny, including how it’s funded by the family of billionaire donor Robert Mercer, who supported Trump’s campaign and the campaigns of other conservative candidates.
The data-analytics firm has also been brought up a few times in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including when its CEO said in November that the company reached out to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange during the campaign in an attempt to obtain emails in connection with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Cambridge Analytica has denied involvement in Russian election interference.