Cambridge Analytica, the UK-based data firm responsible for harvesting user data from Facebook, was reportedly working on its own cryptocurrency. Facebook recently confirmed that it has identified 87 million accounts whose profile information had been scraped by Cambridge Analytica. It seems the data analytics firm had a larger goal beyond political advertising to incentivize the data for cryptocurrency.
The New York Times reports that the company had plans to launch an ICO and promote a virtual token. The virtual token was designed to enable people to sell their personal data and get cryptocurrency in return. However, those plans have been deterred by Facebook and the revelation that the data analytics firm was harvesting user data from the world’s largest social network.
Cambridge Analytica’s plans were detailed by Brittany Kaiser, the former employee of the firm, in her testimony to the UK Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee. Kaiser also confirmed that she was in charge of the coin offering business at Cambridge Analytica. She told the committee that the data firm played with the idea of paying people in far-flung parts of Mexico in the form of cryptocurrency as a reward for filling out the surveys.
The company almost strategized a cryptocurrency for data sharing as a strategy to sustain its core business where it helped political candidates using data scraped from Facebook users. It also worked with Dragon Coin, a currency meant to be used by gambling enthusiasts on the island of Macau.
Kaiser also revealed that Aleksandr Kogan designed This Is Your Digital Life was not the only survey used by Cambridge Analytica. She told UK committee that the firm ran multiple surveys including one named “sex compass” to lure Facebook users and harvest data from those participating in those survey.
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There is a possibility that Cambridge Analytica was getting into more shady practices and more details could come out as its current and former employees testify before UK committee. However, the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica has declined to testify before the committee.