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Facebook forced to explain itself some more

Paul Brislen, Editor. 25 March 2019, 8:23 am

In a surprise to probably no-one, it turns out that Facebook knew about Cambridge Analytica's use and abuse of personal data many months before the social media giant originally said.

Cambridge Analytica accessed an estimated 87 million user records without consent as part of a body of work it was conducting in the lead up to the US elections. Reporters at The Guardian in the UK exposed the breach in 2015 and Facebook confirmed it was accurate and revoked CA's access to its systems, but only after threatening legal action against the paper for reporting the findings.

Facebook has claimed it only learned of Cambridge Analytica's access (something CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said was unauthorised) when approached by journalists in December 2015, but documents suggest employees were discussing it in September of that year.

This is likely to inflame already tense relationships between Facebook and the UK's parliament which has been investigating the company and its relationship with Cambridge Analytica - an investigation which was thought closed last month with a damning report into Facebook's activities.

In its defence, Facebook says the September conversations were not about the data scraping that led to Cambridge Analytica's downfall but rather a totally separate data scraping project.

The news comes as Facebook was forced to reveal that it has stored user passwords for Facebook, Facebook Lite, and Instagram in plaintext without any attempt to protect the information. Although the company says no users were impacted by this astonishing lapse, those affected users will be contacted directly.

Meanwhile in New Zealand calls for social media giants such as Facebook to be regulated have increased and the government is likely to turn its attention to their reach and culpability following the Christchurch terror attacks.


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