A voter profiling company, Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, got illegal access to the data of around 50 million Facebook accounts without the consent of users, according to the reports by The New York Times and the UK’s Observer and Guardian newspapers on Saturday.
The leading news outlets have revealed that all of this was allegedly done for the 2014 mid-term elections as Cambridge Analytica was the recipient of a $15 million investment from a Republican donor Robert Mercer.
The sources such as Facebook documents and statements of former employees which have been retrieved by The Guardian, reveals that over 50 million Facebook profiles were affected, and $1 million was spent to do so.
According to a former data scientist of Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie,
“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 that the entire company was built on.”
The exploitation of Facebook accounts at such level is dubbed as one of the largest data leaks in Facebook history. According to the reports, Cambridge still has access to this data and Facebook has not given any official confirmation that whether this breach has occurred or not.
On the other hand, Cambridge Analytica has given controversial statements to news outlets denying about employing Facebook data completely. And sometimes he puts blame on the Aleksandr Kogan, a former researcher at the firm. He also indicates that the data was deleted two-years ago which other former employees don’t believe.
Kogan developed an app for Cambridge which helps to indicate likes of the social media users. This information was then used by the Trump campaign to target the placement of digital ads and fund-raising requests. The data also helped the firm to analyze where it should invest in television ads.
As of now, Facebook has suspended the accounts of SCL/Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan from Facebook. The company’s VP and General Counsel Paul Grewal states,
“We will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all — and take action against all offending parties.”
It remains to be seen what sort of users’ data was actually accessed and what Facebook is going to do about it.