Ever since it ended, the U.S. presidential elections of 2016 have been under immense scrutiny. All of that scrutiny magnified when the Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light. And one company that has been at the spotlight of it all, is Facebook. So much so, that founder CEO Mark Zuckerberg even appeared before the Congress to clear his company’s name. But the name, is far from cleared.
The 2020 US presidential elections are just a few months away and there’s still dirty laundry to air. Brittany Kaiser, the one who blew the whistle on Cambridge Analytica has recently shared an email exchange between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The exchange reads a different story than what the company has so far told.
Cambridge Analytica was accused of using Facebook’s user data to make profiles on people to serve targeted micro ads which could have swayed the result of the elections. A Cambridge professor developed TIYDL, a personality quiz app that 300,000 users signed up for. Those who did, unknowingly made their own AND their friends’ data available to CA. The data assembled has since been suspected to be used by Donald Trump to run his political ad campaign.
After the issue came to light, Facebook said that it asked CA to delete the data it had used in 2015, and to relay back a certification to assure that it had done so. Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer said: “In late 2015, when we learned Kogan had shared the data, we immediately banned TIYDL [the personality quiz app used to harvest data] from our platform and demanded that he delete all data he obtained from that app. We also demanded deletion from everyone that Kogan identified as having been passed some data, including Cambridge Analytica, and certification from all parties that the deletion had been completed.”
During his hearing, Zuckerberg too iterated that Facebook assumed the case to be closed when Cambridge Analytica self-certified that the data was deleted. At the time he said: “When we heard back from Cambridge Analytica that they had told us that they weren’t using the data and deleted it, we considered it a closed case. In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn’t have taken their word for it. We’ve updated our policy to make sure we don’t make that mistake again.”
However, fresh email exchanges released by Kaise to TechCrunch tell a different story. While all this while, Facebook asserted of some sort of ‘self certification’, there was actually none. In fact, all that there was, was a simple email from CA, stating that they had deleted the data.
Here’s a screenshot of that email (via TechCrunch)
From the email, it is clear that Facebook only asked for an ’email confirmation’ from the company and no such certification was deemed necessary.
This entire exchange was then forwarded by executives from the N6A PR agency to Cambridge Analytica executives and was, in turn, obtained by Kaiser on 23 January 2016.
More recently, one of Facebook’s most vocal employees talked about Cambridge Analytica and how the company did influence the most crucial democractic exercise in the world’s oldest democracy.
The full e-mail exchange that Kaiser has recently leaked can be read at TechCrunch here.