Facebook has suspended Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), along with its political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, for violating its policies and commitments. The companies ran data operations for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.
According to The Verge, the companies are widely credited with helping Trump more effectively target voters on Facebook than his rival Hillary Clinton. “In 2015, we learned that a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, 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,” said Paul Grewal, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Facebook.
SCL/Cambridge Analytica is a firm that does political, government and military work around the globe, Grewal said. Like all app developers, Kogan requested and gained access to information from people after they chose to download his app.
His app, “thisisyourdigitallife,” offered a personality prediction, and billed itself on Facebook as “a research app used by psychologists”. Approximately 270,000 people downloaded the app.
“In so doing, they gave their consent for Kogan to access information such as the city they set on their profile, or content they had liked, as well as more limited information about friends who had their privacy settings set to allow it,” Grewal said in a blog post late on Friday.
“By passing information on to a third party, including SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, he violated our platform policies,” Facebook said. When Facebook learned of this violation in 2015, it removed the app.
“Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie all certified to us that they destroyed the data. But not all data was deleted,” said the social networking giant, adding that it is suspending SCL/Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan from Facebook, pending further information.
“We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information. We will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens. We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behaviour,” Facebook said.