A Breakdown of the Recent Data Harvesting Scandal


In recent news, data mining has made headlines, and not exactly for good reasons. For those of you who do not know what data mining is, it is the practice of examining large databases in order to generate new information – which is exactly what the UK-based company, Cambridge Analytica, does (and openly discloses on their website). Data mining collections can be used to influence consumer choices and even political outcomes. Currently, the tech giant Facebook is in the middle of a controversial data-mining scandal.

In a statement from Infosecurity Magazine, Facebook commented that “protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do, and we require the same from people who operate apps on Facebook. In 2015, we learned that a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge named Dr. Aleksandr Kogan lied to us and violated our Platform Policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook Login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica, a firm that does political, government and military work around the globe. He also passed that data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc.”

News sources estimate that 50 million people’s data, mostly in the US, have been harvested and shared without their consent via a 2014 Facebook quiz, which ultimately ended up in the hands of third-parties, according to a report from the Globe and Mail and a whistleblower who previously worked at Cambridge Analytica. Once discovered by Facebook, the company claims to have removed the application and deleted the data that was collected – Cambridge Analytica has made the same claims, and has stated that none of the information collected was used (you can read the official press releases from Cambridge Analytica here). Cambridge Analytica has also stated that “this Facebook data was not used by Cambridge Analytica as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump presidential campaign; personality targeted advertising was not carried out for this client either. The company has made this clear since 2016 … Cambridge Analytica and its affiliates work with commercial brands and mainstream political parties in democratic elections. We did not work on the Brexit referendum in the UK.”

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