Cambridge Analytica are best known for helping Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. election in the tightly fought contested with Democratic rival Hilary Clinton. The current issue is, as Facebook claims in a report on Sky News, that University of Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan who developed a “personality app” that gathered data which was then allegedly sold to third parties. The BBC reports that Facebook have indicated that have evidence that Cambridge Analytica plus associates had not destroyed all the data that was obtained. This retention of the data is in breach of Facebook policies.
According Facebook the psychology professor Dr Aleksandr Kogan created an app called “thisisyourdigitallife”, which was accessed by 270,000 Facebook users. Facebook said the data was then kept and sold on to third-parties including Cambridge Analytica and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories.
Cambridge Analytica has no connection with the University of Cambridge. The company is privately held and it combines data mining and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral processes. The company was created in 2013 to participate in U.S. politics. The company has links with campaigns more associated with the right of the political spectrum, such as Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign (which then switched to Donald Trump once Cruz dropped out the Republican Party nomination process) and the Leave.EU-campaign as part of the U.K.’s close and bitterly contested Brexit process.
The issue with which Facebook has acted relates to the use of personal data potentially collected without knowledge or permission in order to establish sophisticated models of user’s personalities. Cambridge Analytica states that Facebook users gave permission when signing up to its services; however, Facebook does not agree and has stated, as quoted by The Washington Post, that “misleading people or misusing information” is in violation of Facebook’s policies. Based on this, Facebook has suspended the accounts of Cambridge Analytica and its parent company Strategic Communication Laboratories for failing to delete data on Facebook users that had been improperly collected.
Cambridge Analytica have stated, as the BBC reports, that it deleted “all the data it had received” when it was told the information was obtained in breach of Facebook’s terms of service. However, Facebook have yet to life the suspension.