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Pursuing Forensic Audits to Investigate Cambridge Analytica Claims

20 March 2018

Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, Thursday, March 3, 2016.

Facebook fell after reports said political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica was able to collect data on 50 million people's profiles without their consent.

The company's chief data officer, Dr. Alex Tayler, is also listed as having attended two of the meetings with the Channel 4 reporter.

He also said he had left Cambridge Analytica before it joined the Trump campaign.

The firm said it met with the undercover reporter to discuss "philanthropic, infrastructure and political projects in Sri Lanka" and the reporter "later attempted to entrap Cambridge Analytica executives by initiating a conversation about unethical practices".

"I am aware of the reports that users' Facebook profile information was acquired and used without authorisation", a statement issued by Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said. Cambridge also didn't immediately respond to emailed questions.

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Another Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, Ore., wrote Zuckerberg directly on Monday, asking whether there had been other examples in which third-party app developers collected or processed user data in violation of the site's rules.

The consultancy in question is Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis communications company with ties to conservative billionaire Robert Mercer and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon.

Facebook has already been under intense scrutiny for the way it handled political advertising during that election cycle, with multiple intelligence agencies suggesting that social media platforms were a key battleground in Russia's propaganda campaign to influence US voters. It began with a 270,000 people answering a questionnaire.

Facebook's shares closed down almost 7 per cent, wiping almost $US40 billion off its market value as investors anxious that new legislation could damage the company's advertising business.

We have hired a digital forensics firm, Stroz Friedberg, to conduct a comprehensive audit of Cambridge Analytica. That data helped make the Cambridge data particularly powerful, campaign officials said. Cambridge Analytica has agreed to comply and afford the firm complete access to their servers and systems.

Some analysts suggested the breach posed an existential crisis for Facebook because of how it gathers and uses data on its two billion members.

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Facebook has already testified about how its platform was used by Russian propagandists ahead of the 2016 election, but the company never put Zuckerberg himself in the spotlight with government leaders.

Regulators in the United States and UK have criticised Facebook for allowing Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that helped the Trump campaign, to access data on users without their express permission and retain that data despite saying that it had destroyed those records.

"Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadian Facebook users are protected". The head of the European Union parliament has promised an investigation.

Still, it presents an unflattering look at a group already steeped in controversy. However, Federal Election Commission filings show five payments from the Trump campaign to Cambridge Analytica for data management services. "Cambridge Analytica strongly denies the claims recently made by the New York Times, the Guardian and Channel 4 News", the company said on Twitter.

A former employee of a Trump-affiliated data-mining firm says it used algorithms that "took fake news to the next level" using data inappropriately obtained from Facebook. The suspension came ahead of reporting in The New York Times and The Observer in London on Saturday that alleged Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data when it was asked to do so by Facebook in 2015 - a claim Cambridge Analytica denies. The distinction of the S&P 500's biggest five is now held by Apple, Google's parent company Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft, and Berkshire Hathaway.

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Pursuing Forensic Audits to Investigate Cambridge Analytica Claims