Facebook is portraying itself as shocked after a whistleblower is exposing just how easy the social network makes it for firms like his former employer, Cambridge Analytica, to take users' private data and exploit it in virtually unlimited ways. But according to President Obama's former digital director, the social network told the campaign they knew its users' data were being improperly seized by the campaign in 2012, but they chose to look the other way because Facebook supports Obama. The Canadian born techie turned whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, said Cambridge Analytica, was able to create a personality profile users voluntarily took, but which inadvertently gave access to the quiz takers' entire social network. The survey that began with just 270,000 people ultimately ended up collecting data on more than 50 million people.
Facebook says this mass collection of its users' data violated its terms and asked Cambridge Analytica to delete the data. However, Wylie told NBC, "Facebook never checked to make sure that happened." President Obama's 2012 campaign poineered the exploitation of Facebook to harvest its users personal information. The co-founder of Engage D.C., Patrick Ruffini, who covered the story at the time, detailed how the campaign tricked users into unwittingly forking over to the campaign data on their peers. Ruffini posted a graphic from his original report detailing how this Facebook data helped the Obama campaign: Forms like this enabled Obama for America to harvest friends of friends' data. via Patrick Ruffini
The former director of Obama for America's Integration and Media Analytics, Carol Davidsen, candidly admitted that Facebook acknowledged letting their campaign improperly access its users data. "Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing," Davidsen wrote Sunday night after news of Cambridge Analytica broke. "They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side." The Obama project was code named tärgus and was covered by TIME Magazine at the time.
Facebook's attitude toward the Trump-aligned Cambridge Analytica was decidedly different. After news reports surfaced late last week that showed how the firm was able to exploit the social media platform, Facebook banned both Cambridge Analytica and its former staffer Wylie from the platform. "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," Facebook wrote in a blog post Friday night. "He also passed that data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc."
"Several days ago, we received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted," Facebook wrote. "We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims. If true, this is another unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments they made. We are suspending SCL/Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and Kogan from Facebook, pending further information.