Facebook, on Friday night, announced that it has suspended Cambridge Analytica — a data analysis and communications firm best known for its work for President Donald Trump’s campaign — over concerns that it and other parties improperly obtained and stored users’ personal information.
On Friday, Facebook’s vice president and deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal, said in a detailed statement that a University of Cambridge psychology professor, Aleksandr Kogan, had passed Facebook user data he gained through an app on to third-parties, including Cambridge Analytica — a breach of the social media site’s policies on protecting people’s information.
Despite telling the company that the data was destroyed, the Facebook statement said it recently received reports that indicated otherwise and was suspending Cambridge Analytica, its parent company Strategic Communication Laboratories, Kogan and another person he shared the information with, Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies Inc.
Facebook’s move to suspend Cambridge Analytica came just hours before The New York Times and the British newspaper The Observer both released reports that raised questions about the handling of Facebook data by the company and its associates.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Cambridge Analytica denied that the organization is in violation of Facebook’s terms and said it is in communication with Facebook following the news it had been suspended from the platform.
The spokesperson said that in 2014, Cambridge Analytica contracted with Kogan’s company Global Science Research (GSR) “to undertake a large scale research project in the United States,” obtaining data and seeking “the informed consent of each respondent.”
“We worked with Facebook over this period to ensure that they were satisfied that we had not knowingly breached any of Facebook’s terms of service and also provided a signed statement to confirm that all Facebook data and their derivatives had been deleted.
No data from GSR was used by Cambridge Analytica as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign.”
Cambridge University acknowledged they knew of Kogan’s company, Global Science Research (GSR), but said they do not believe “he used University data or facilities for his work with GSR, and therefore that there is no reason to believe the University’s data and facilities were used as the basis for GSR’s subsequent work with any other party.”
“It is important to make clear that, despite its name, Cambridge Analytica has no connection or association with the University whatsoever.”
Cambridge Analytica was hired in summer 2016 as part of the Trump campaign’s three-pronged data operation.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon served as vice president and secretary of Cambridge Analytica until he stepped down to run the Trump campaign in August 2016.
William A. Burck, an attorney for Bannon, said in a statement on Bannon’s behalf: “The first Mr. Bannon heard of these reports was from media inquiries in the past few days. He has nothing to say because he knows nothing about the claims being asserted and would direct questions to Mr. Nix, who ran Cambridge Analytica the entire time Mr. Bannon was associated with it.
CNN previously reported in October 2017 that the firm had contacted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016 regarding thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails kept on a private server while she was secretary of state, according to four sources familiar with the outreach.
Cambridge Analytica CEO Aleander Nix sent an email that said he had reached out to Assange in attempt to access emails from Clinton’s private server in hopes to create a searchable database of the emails for the campaign or a pro-Trump political action committee, according to two sources.
CNN reported that no one from the Trump campaign was copied on the email, the sources said. Nix sent the email in the summer of 2016, two sources said, but it is not clear whether he sent it before or after Cambridge Analytica was brought onto the campaign.