The Guardian of the United Kingdom has reported that 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica for the U.S. elections in a major data breach.
The firm also says none of the data was used as part of the services it provided to Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Facebook added on Saturday the data gathered was not the result of a breach, but that people knowingly provided their information and no sensitive pieces of information were stolen. "Through his company Global Science Research (GSR), in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica, hundreds of thousands of users were paid to take a personality test and agreed to have their data collected for academic use", the Guardian reported.
The app, created in November 2013, asked users for permission to access their profile information - and also that of their friends'.
That year, Facebook said, it learned that University of Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan lied to the company and violated its policies by sharing data that he acquired with a so-called "research app" that used Facebook's login system.
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"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", Grewal said in a statement Saturday.
The technology company said it took the action after establishing that SCL had violated its policies. The Observer said it was headed at the time by Steve Bannon, a top Trump adviser until he was sacked last summer.
Not only was that data used for microtargeting voters, but by tracking the response to those messages in real time on social media, the firm could advise the campaign where Trump should visit and what words would resonate most with voters in the region.
"We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims", Facebook said. While Uber and Equifax have attracted much of the user anger over delayed data breaches, Facebook appears to have done worse.
Cambridge Analytica saidon Twitter it acted "legally and fairly", and was in touch with Facebook. He said the parent company's SCL Elections unit hired Kogan to undertake "a large scale research project in the USA", but later learned that he had obtained data in violation of Facebook policies, and subsequently deleted all data it received from Kogan's company.
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The firm, which is owned by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and was then headed by Steve Bannon, wanted to build tools that could profile, target and influence US voters.
The social media company was aware as far back as late 2015 that, starting in early 2014, the Trump-linked U.K data firm had secretly harvested profile data belonging to 50 million users, according to a follow-up report from The Observer. "That was the basis the entire company was built on", he said. In doing so, a user gave consent for Kogan to access information about their location, content they "liked", and what Mark Zuckerberg's company qualified as some "limited information" about friends without strict privacy settings. "Cambridge Analytica only receives and uses data that has been obtained legally and fairly".
However, Kogan was not immediately available for comment.
It doesn't end there, however, as Facebook recently received reports the data was not all destroyed despite the certifications given.
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