A few days ago, Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica, the parent company of political analysis firm, after news broke that it allegedly harvested personal information from approximately 50 million users. While the social network reportedly attempts to sue The Guardian prior to the release of the publication, the first news with the help of a whistleblower, Facebook has dialled back its stance. Today, the social network revealed that it had hired Stroz Friedberg, a digital forensics outfit, to audit the political analysis company.
In a public post, Facebook said that Cambridge Analytica would be complying with the audit along with a psychology professor at Cambridge, Aleksander Kogan, who passed along user data to that political company (among others). Kogan acquired the data by hiring hundreds of thousands of Amazon Mechanical Turks to take a “personality prediction app” which collected their personal information — and also that of their friends on Facebook. Collecting this information was within acceptable grounds at the time. However, keeping it was not. Facebook insists that it ordered that the personal information be deleted way back in 2015 after Cambridge Analytica and Kogan had finished making use of the data. While both parties insist that they already destroyed the data, the social network is not sure.
According to the post of Facebook, the social network asked someone else to comply with the audit — the whistleblower who informed The Guardian and has refused to participate, Christopher Wylie. The said audit will determine whether that information still exists; If it were still not deleted, it would be considered as “a grave violation of Facebook’s policies and an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments these groups made.” However, more to the point, the social network insisted that this incredible access to the data of non-consenting and remote users would not happen to this day: “Kogan’s app would not be permitted access to detailed friends’ data today.”