Facebook likely knew about Cambridge Analytica much earlier than we thought

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Zuckerberg Testimony Congress
Mark Zuckerberg appears before Congress on April 10, 2018. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Newly-released documents suggest that Facebook knew about the Cambridge Analytica scandal much earlier than we originally thought.

Documents suggest that Facebook knew the company was gathering user profile data three months before the press revealed that the firm was using profile data to target voters during the 2016 elections, CNBC reports.

Internal emails released by Facebook suggest that the social network had concerns about Cambridge Analytica as well as several other companies that were using data in ways that potentially violate Facebook policies as early as September 2015. Those documents suggested that Facebook employees planned to reach out to the companies in question to determine how they were using Facebook’s data. One email sent on September 30, 2015 speculatd that “these apps’ data-scraping activity is likely non-compliant” with Facebook’s policies. 

Facebook made a joint statement Friday about the issue along with District of Columbia Attorney General. It also released a separate statement explaining the documents, which it says hold the potential for confusion — confusion it wanted to preemptively clear up.

“There is no substantively new information in this document and the issues have been previously reported,” a blog post posted by Paul Grewal, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Facebook reads.”As we have said many times, including last week to a British parliamentary committee, these are two distinct issues. One involved unconfirmed reports of scraping — accessing or collecting public data from our products using automated means — and the other involved policy violations by Aleksandr Kogan, an app developer who sold user data to Cambridge Analytica. This document proves the issues are separate; conflating them has the potential to mislead people.”

Aleksandr Kogan is the app developer that sold data he collected about Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook says it was not aware he made that sale until December 2015.

In May of 2018 Cambridge Analytica officially ceased operations. At the time it said that it had been “the subject of numerous unfounded accusations and, despite the company’s efforts to correct the record, has been vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas.”

Due to the scandal, the company said it had lost almost all of its customers and suppliers.

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