Canadian firm linked to Facebook data scandal defends its political work

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower briefs House Dems

The academic at the centre of the scandal, Aleksandr Kogan, told MPs that researchers at the University of Toronto also had access to some of the Facebook data. At that time, Facebook allowed third-party apps to collect data on the users' friends, so the social network estimates that the volume of collected user data ballooned to 87 million people, a lot of them in the United States.

He was also forced to fall back on the argument - also put forward by Kogan - that the GSR data CA forked out many thousands of dollars for was "virtually useless", with the personality matches being only slightly better than a random guess.

When pressed on this baffling statement - and whether he accepted that he had broken the terms as "laid down in black and white" - Kogan said he agreed his actions "were inconsistent with the language of the document", but that this was "slightly different".

The committee is investigating data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica's role in elections globally as well as the U.K.'s Brexit vote in 2016. The firm gathered the information from social media accounts to develop a mechanism that would predict and influence the behavior of voters.

The company also said it deleted the raw data after Facebook requested it to.

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Mr Nix had denied that Global Science Research, Dr Kogan's company, had provided Cambridge Analytica with any data. He says he's since changed his mind, saying he had been acting "quite naively" in assuming that users weren't too concerned about what apps did with their data. Despite admitting to breaking Facebook's terms of service in a previous interview with BuzzFeed News, Kogan questioned whether the terms of service were even legitimate because Facebook allegedly did not strongly enforce them.

Kogan said Facebook is not being honest about its criticism of him as a rogue researcher, pointing to his GSR partner Joseph Chancellor, who now works for Facebook as one example.

"I do not think they have a developer policy that is valid", said Kogan.

In the "60 Minutes" interview, Kogan said he thought the way his app mined data was on the up-and-up at the time. Nix is now suspended by Cambridge Analytica after the British television channel Channel 4 caught Nix saying in an undercover interview that his company used honey traps, bribes and prostitutes to influence elections across the globe.

In a testy news conference in London, company spokesman Clarence Mitchell called allegations made against the firm "unfounded".

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Cambridge Analytica used data provided by the Republican National Committee and tapped commercially available data sources for the Trump Campaign, Mitchell said.

Cambridge Analytica is in the midst of a data mining scandal involving the world's largest social network that has already been the subject of Congressional hearings. "In fact, the platform's tools provide companies a far more effective pathway to target people based on their personalities than using scores from users from our work".

"We've got nothing to hide - we make websites, we make software and we do online advertising", Silvester said.

He has also conducted work funded by the Russian government with St Petersburg University, but said that was irrelevant to the Facebook scandal. He also disputed allegations raised by Canadian data expert and whistle-blower Christopher Wylie, saying AggregateIQ has never been part of Cambridge Analytica nor its parent company, SCL.

"We are not data harvesters by any stretch of the imagination and, certainly, we don't do psychographic profiling or profiling of any other type", he told the House of Commons committee.

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