Cambridge Analytica Denies Facebook Data Abuses: "This Isn't A Spy Movie"

Facebook was once again caught flat-footed when on Saturday it hastily announced that it had banned data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica from its platform following twin reports in the New York Times and the Guardian that the company improperly accessed the Facebook data of 50 million Americans in its "information warfare" campaign meant to sway the 2016 election in President Trump's favor.

And while Facebook does damage control as Senate Democrats threaten legislation to officially regulate social media companies and the Massachusetts Attorney General launches an investigation into the incident, Cambridge Analytica is fighting back against purported falsehoods contained in the NYT and Guardian reports - claiming that it had deleted the controversial Facebook data years ago, and that whoever told Facebook it had held on to these data had been grossly misinformed.

Nix

Cambridge Analytica Founder Alexander Nix

Cambridge clarified that a contractor called GSR improperly accessed data from a psychology testing app called "thisismydigitallife". Furthermore, CA said it had deleted the data as soon as it learned that GSR was not authorized to share it.

The company also lashed out at former employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie, whom it said was misidentified as a co-founder of Cambridge Analytica (he was, in fact, a contractor). It also claimed that the anonymous sources who spoke with the media about Cambridge's databases were either lying or misinformed.

Cambridge "uses client and commercially and publicly available data; we don't use or hold any Facebook data" the company declared in a multi-part tweetstorm. Furthermore, it insisted that it didn't use any Facebook data during its work for the Trump campaign...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher Wylie has marketed himself as a whistleblower who did the right thing by exposing the nefarious, manipulative and borderline illegal tactics of his former employer. But in reality, Wylie is a disgruntled former employee with an axe to grind, Cambridge implied.

Furthermore, Facebook has suspended Wylie's account without an explanation - though Wylie claimed it was for blowing the whistle on the company's security lapses, which have once again placed Facebook in the crosshairs of US lawmakers...

 

 

Cambridge pointed out that the media had greatly exaggerated Wylie's role in the company...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Facebook's Democratic critics have argued that Facebook's inability to stop CA from accessing its data is proof that social media behemoths can't be trusted to police themselves by cracking down on fake news.

As Bloomberg reports, Facebook is straining to convince the public that the violations that led to CA's suspension didn't constitute a "data breach" per se - but rather were the result of a carefully planned deception by a professor who had originally said he wanted to access the data for academic purposes.

Facebook said it learned about Cambridge Analytica’s access to the data in 2015 and immediately had the firm certify that it deleted the data. However, Facebook says it learned this week that CA had lied - though CA claims it did, in fact, delete the data.

One Facebook executive took to twitter to insist that this was unequivocally "not a data breach."

 

 

US Senator of Minnesota Amy Klobuchar argued that CA's unauthorized access of data from 50 million Facebook users is the latest justification for regulating technology companies, per the Hill. 

"Facebook breach: This is a major breach that must be investigated. It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves. I've called for more transparency & accountability for online political ads.  They say “trust us.” Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary," Klobuchar said.

 

 

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced Saturday that her office is opening an investigation into Facebook and the data firm Cambridge Analytica, which has ties to the Trump campaign, per WMUR.

"Massachusetts residents deserve answers immediately from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. We are launching an investigation," Healey tweeted.

 

 

Longtime Facebook antagonist Mark Warner, who has seized every opportunity to push a bill regulating social media, used Facebook's admission of the "breach of trust" to tout his "Honest Ads" bill...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reports that CA CEO Alexander Nix met with Steve Bannon and talked business with Russians are now being used by the left to paint the firm as little more than a dangerous psychological warfare operation built upon a collaboration between the Russians and Trump supporting billionaire Robert Mercer. The company has provided at least some evidence that this isn't the case.

The Guardian also reported that the company flouted US election laws by employing Britons and Canadians to work on projects pertaining to US elections - both the 2014 midterms and the 2016 race.

Still, given the sensitivity surrounding any signs of Russian interference, we imagine the news cycle during the coming week will feature plenty of debate over whether the latest Facebook PR disaster is also Putin's fault.