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Facebook suspends Cambridge Analytica, a firm that exploited its data to support Trump's electoral effort

In 2010, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg joked that privacy, as a social norm, was dead. He was probably right, but not the way he wanted to.

It's not that people do not care about privacy; they do it, as much or more than ever. It's just that they seem to have decreasing control over their data and how it is used – or exploited. Privacy breaches and massive data breaches are probably the new norm, as reflected in the episodes of Yahoo, Equifax and now Cambridge Analytica.

Last night, Facebook's deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal, said in a blog that Cambridge Analytica, a British data and analytics company involved in the pro-Brexit and Trump campaigns, had been suspended for violating its policies. According to the post, Aleksandr Kogan, a professor at the University of Cambridge, has transmitted to Cambridge Analytica and others data obtained from an application of "personality prediction" (thisisyourdigitallife) to political targeting during the 2016 election campaign.

The former Cambridge Analytica co-founder and whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, said the firm was seeking to fuel a "cultural war" in the United States and that he was "fugnant" rules. The transfer of data from an application to Cambridge Analytica seems to be a flagrant violation of the FTC's rules against "consumer deception". It is also questioned whether the use of foreign nationals by Cambridge Analytica in the US elections contravenes federal election laws


In the UK, Cambridge Analytica is also the subject of an investigation for violation of privacy and other alleged illegal activities in the pro-Brexit campaign. The two pro-Brexit and Trump campaigns have sought to cultivate the fear of immigrants and others as political strategies.

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Facebook said in his post:

Although Kogan had access to this information legitimately and through the appropriate channels that governed all Facebook developers at that time, he did not subsequently comply with our rules. . By transmitting information to a third party, including SCL / Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, he violated the rules of our platform. When we learned of this violation in 2015, we removed its application from Facebook and required certifications from Kogan and all parties to whom it had given data that the information had been destroyed. Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie have all certified to us that they destroyed the data.

A few days ago, we received reports that, unlike the certifications we were given, not all data was removed. We act aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims. If that is true, it is another unacceptable breach of trust and commitments that they have made. We are suspending SCL / Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan from Facebook, pending further information.

The suspension seems temporary pending the outcome of the Facebook investigation. Whatever the outcome, this new episode is another setback for Facebook, which was also widely used by Russian troll farms in the 2016 elections to sow division and fear in the US electorate. The company has tried to go beyond these scandals and put in place new measures and protections to prevent the misuse of its platform and data.

Even though Mark Zuckerberg may have been right, unintentionally, about the decline of privacy as a social norm, it is an increasing political and political issue. Far from disappearing, it is revenge for digital platforms and marketing tactics in the form of the European General Regulation on Data Protection (GDPR) and the Directive on "Privacy and Electronic Communications".

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PostScript: In response to this article, Cambridge Analytica provided the following statement:

Cambridge Analytica fully complies with the terms of use of Facebook and is currently in contact with Facebook following its recent statement that it had suspended the company from its platform, in order to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.

Cambridge Analytica's business and policy divisions use social media platforms for outbound marketing, delivering creative, data-driven content to targeted audiences. They do not use or store data from Facebook profiles.

In 2014, we retained the services of a company led by a seemingly reputed academic in an internationally renowned institution to undertake a large-scale research project in the United States.

This company, Global Science Research (GSR), has been contractually engaged by us to obtain only data in accordance with the UK Data Protection Act and to obtain the informed consent of each respondent. GSR was also contractually responsible for data processing (in accordance with Article 1 (1) of the Data Protection Act) for all data collected. GSR obtained Facebook data via an API provided by Facebook.

When it became clear later that the data had not been obtained by GSR in accordance with Facebook's terms of service, Cambridge Analytica deleted all data received from GSR.

We worked with Facebook during this time to ensure that they had not knowingly violated the terms of use of Facebook and provided a signed statement confirming that all Facebook data and their derivatives had been removed.

No data from GSR has been used by Cambridge Analytica as part of the services it has rendered to Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016.

Cambridge Analytica receives and uses only data obtained legally and fairly. Our robust data protection policies comply with US, international, European and national regulations.

[This article originally appeared on MarTech Today.]

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About the author

Greg Sterling is a contributing editor to Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about the link between digital media and consumer behavior in the real world. He is also vice president of strategy and ideas for the local research association. Follow him on Twitter or find him on Google+.