Cambridge Analytica faces increased scrutiny over harvesting Facebook users' data

The analytics company linked to Trump's campaign is accused of harvesting data from Facebook users

Published March 19, 2018 8:00AM (EDT)

 (Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

A new scandal has developed involving Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign — namely, the role of analytics firm Cambridge Analytica in harvesting Facebook data on the future president's behalf.

Over the weekend, reports began to surface that the firm, featuring Steve Bannon and Republican donor Robert Mercer in key roles, had acquired information from over 50 million Facebook users so that it could more effectively manipulate voters' behavior, according to The New York Times. Cambridge Analytica is being criticized for violating the privacy of millions of unsuspecting people to help Trump, while Facebook is being accused of potentially breaking American and British laws for failing to disclose to users that their data had been used by an outside firm.

Cambridge Analytica has also been accused of knowingly employing non-American citizens to work on the 2016 presidential election, despite the fact that this violated federal law, according to The Guardian. Many of its methods were exposed in a recent piece from The Guardian that profiled eventual whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who, along with consulting company Strategic Communication Laboratories (which is the parent to Cambridge Analytica) and University of Cambridge professor Dr. Aleksandr Kogan had their accounts suspended by Facebook on Friday night. Facebook is also looking into the ties between one of its employees, Joseph Chancellor, and Global Science Research, a company that helped Cambridge Analytica, according to CNN.

One Facebook executive, Andrew Bosworth, took to Twitter to defend his company.

This explanation did not stop Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey from announcing an investigation into both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, one that was resoundingly supported by one of the state's senators.

"The recent revelations about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica raise serious questions about the extent to which the social media giant respected user privacy and whether it violated its consent decree with the FTC. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica should be made to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee so that we can get to the bottom of these disturbing reports that may impact tens of millions of Americans," Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., explained in a statement, according to CNN.


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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2016 Presidential Election Brexit Cambridge Analytica Donald Trump Facebook