Facebook suspends Trump campaign data firm

Illustration by Alex Castro  The Verge

Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook vice-president, said the suspension means Cambridge Analytica and SCL can not buy ads on the world's largest social media network or administer pages belonging to clients. That data then was used to target voters and influence the 2016 election, according to two in-depth reports.

"We were forced to take action against Mr. Christopher Wylie to prevent his misuse of the company's intellectual property and he is the subject of restraining undertakings in this regard", the spokesman said. Kogan then broke Facebook's policies and passed the information to Cambridge and to Wylie.

The Facebook members gave their consent for Kogan to access information such as the city they set on their profile, the content they had liked, as well as some limited information about friend groups and contacts. British officials are also investigating the firm in connection with the June 2016 European Union referendum.

"The evidence he supplied to authorities in the United Kingdom and U.S. includes a letter from Facebook's own lawyers sent to him in August 2016, asking him to destroy any data he held that had been collected", the Observer explained.

Cambridge Analytica uses data to reach voters with hyper-targeted messaging, including on Facebook and other online services.

Documents seen by the Observer, and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale.

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.

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Cambridge Analytica is owned by conservative billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, and counted former Trump adviser and Breitbart chairman Stephen Bannon as one of its founders.

The social network goes on to explain how Dr Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, violated its policies.

Although all certified they had destroyed the data, Facebook said it received reports in the past several days that "not all data was deleted". Cambridge Analytica abides by all relevant data protection laws and, just as importantly, the company's core values of integrity, respect and honesty. "That was the basis that the entire company was built on".

"In 2014, after hearing feedback from the Facebook community, we made an update to ensure that each person decides what information they want to share about themselves, including their friend list", the statement said. It was not, and when Cruz failed to secure the GOP presidential nomination, that data was put to use for the Trump campaign.

Trump's campaign Saturday denied using the firm's data, saying it relied on the Republican National Committee for its data. But what Facebook didn't say may be more important: The number of people affected by this aggressive form of data grabbing likely numbered in the tens of millions. "We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior".

Wikileaks founder Jullian Assange also alleged a year ago that Cambridge Analytica's CEO, Alexander Nix, contacted him during the campaign trying to get ahold of Hillary Clinton's private emails.

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