Last year, Facebook was publicly embroiled in Cambridge Analytica’s data collection scandal, causing CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before a number of government officials to defend his company. It turns out that the narrative isn’t quite what Facebook claimed it was, as recently unearthed emails show that the social network was aware of the events prior to emerging reports.
Back in December 2015, The Guardian first reported on Cambridge Analytica’s improper use of Facebook data in the US elections. At the time, Facebook allowed application developers to harvest information from a complying user’s friends without their consent, but Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan inevitably breached the social media’s terms and conditions by selling the data onto political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. This was confirmed true at the beginning of last year by ex-Cambridge Analytica employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie.
Facebook refused to comment on the matter at the time, but stated that it had launched an investigation. Newly uncovered emails dated September, 2015 show that the social network was, in fact, suspicious of Cambridge Analytica’s dealings a few months prior to these reports coming to light.
Suspiciously, Facebook recently tried to cover its tracks by requesting that these emails be sealed due to commercial sensitivity. They were only revealed when an opposing motion was filed in court by Washington DC's attorney general, around the same time that Facebook’s Marc Andreessen was accused of meeting with Wylie in the summer of 2016 for Donald Trump’s on-going presidential campaign.
A company spokesperson has insisted that “Facebook absolutely did not mislead anyone about this timeline. In September 2015 employees heard speculation that Cambridge Analytica was scraping data, something that is unfortunately common for any internet service. In December 2015, we first learned through media reports that Kogan sold data to Cambridge Analytica, and we took action. Those were two different things.”
KitGuru Says: It seems as though Facebook’s line of questioning is far from over, even as Zuckerberg does his best to shift to a privacy-focused social media platform.