US President Donald Trump smiles during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the US House of Representatives on in Washington, DC.(AFP File Photo)
US President Donald Trump smiles during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the US House of Representatives on in Washington, DC.(AFP File Photo)

Trump consultants harvested data from 50 million Facebook users during 2016 election campaign: Reports

Trump’s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 for the presidential election campaign and paid it more than $6.2 million, according to Federal election commission records.
By Reuters | Reuters
UPDATED ON MAR 18, 2018 09:19 AM IST

Data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users in developing techniques to support President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, the New York Times and London’s Observer reported on Saturday.

The Massachusetts attorney general said her office was launching an investigation after the news reports.

“Massachusetts residents deserve answers immediately from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica,” Maura Healey said on Twitter in a post that linked to a Times report.

The United Kingdom’s Information Commission also announced on Saturday they are conducting an investigation of Cambridge Analytica, which also had clients in the country.

“Any criminal and civil enforcement actions arising from the investigation will be pursued vigorously,” said Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner.

Facebook on Friday said it was suspending Cambridge Analytica after finding data privacy policies had been violated.

The move means Cambridge Analytica and its parent group Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) cannot buy ads or administer pages belonging to clients.

The newspapers, which cited former Cambridge Analytica employees, associates and documents, said the data breach was one of the largest in the history of Facebook Inc.

The Observer said Cambridge Analytica used the data, taken without authorization in early 2014, to build a software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

It quoted whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who helped set up Cambridge Analytica and worked with an academic at Cambridge University to obtain the data, as saying the system could profile individual voters to target them with personalized political advertisements.

The more than 50 million profiles represented about a third of active North American Facebook users, and nearly a quarter of potential US voters, at the time, the Observer said.

“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on,” Wylie told the Observer.

The New York Times said interviews with a half-dozen former Cambridge Analytica employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, revealed it not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of it.

The Observer said the data was collected through an app called thisisyourdigitallife, built by academic Aleksandr Kogan, separately from his work at Cambridge University.

Through Kogan’s company Global Science Research (GSR), in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica, hundreds of thousands of users were paid to take a personality test and agreed to have their data collected for academic use, the Observer said.

However, the app also collected the information of the test-takers’ Facebook friends, leading to the accumulation of a data pool tens of millions-strong, the Observer said. It said Facebook’s “platform policy” allowed only collection of friends data to improve user experience in the app and barred it from being sold on or used for advertising.

Facebook said it acted against Cambridge Analytica and SCL after receiving reports they did not delete information about Facebook users that had been inappropriately shared.

A Cambridge Analytica spokesman said GSR “was contractually committed by us to only obtain data in accordance with the UK Data Protection Act and to seek the informed consent of each respondent.”

“When it subsequently became clear that the data had not been obtained by GSR in line with Facebook’s terms of service, Cambridge Analytica deleted all data received from GSR,” he said.

“We worked with Facebook over this period to ensure that they were satisfied that we had not knowingly breached any of Facebook’s terms of service and also provided a signed statement to confirm that all Facebook data and their derivatives had been deleted,” the spokesman said.

He said “no data from GSR was used by Cambridge Analytica as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign.”

$6.2 million from Trump campaign

Trump’s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 and paid it more than $6.2 million, according to Federal election commission records.

A Trump campaign official said the campaign used the Republican National Committee for its voter data in 2016, not Cambridge Analytica.

“Any claims that voter data were used from another source to support the victory in 2016 are false,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In past interviews with Reuters, Brad Parscale, who ran Trump’s digital ad operation in 2016 and is his 2020 re-election campaign manager, has said Cambridge Analytica played a minor role as a contractor in the 2016 campaign.

He said the campaign used voter data from a Republican-affiliated organization rather than Cambridge Analytica. He declined to comment on Friday.

On its website, Cambridge Analytica says it “provided the Donald J. Trump for President campaign with the expertise and insights that helped win the White House.”

Facebook did not mention the Trump campaign or any other campaigns in its statement.

“We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior,” Facebook said, adding that it was continuing to investigate the claims.

In a Twitter post, Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos called the news reports “important and powerful” but said it was “incorrect to call this a ‘breach’ under any reasonable definition of the term.”

“We can condemn this behavior while being accurate in our description of it,” he said.

Acknowledging an episode as a data breach can carry legal significance, as companies face a patchwork of state and federal requirements to notify customers and regulators when they detect that information has been compromised.

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the US Senate intelligence committee, said the case was “more evidence that the online political advertising market is essentially the Wild West” and showed the need for Congress to pass legislation to bring transparency and accountability to online political advertisements.

A source close to the congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign said the Trump campaign likely will need to address whether it was aware of Cambridge Analytica’s methods for obtaining its data or if the data was leveraged during the election.

Cambridge Analytica says it uses “behavioral microtargeting,” or combining analysis of people’s personalities with demographics, to predict and influence mass behavior. It says it has data on 220 million Americans, two-thirds of the US population.

It has worked on other campaigns in the United States and other countries, and is funded by Robert Mercer, a prominent supporter of politically conservative groups.

Facebook in its statement described a rocky relationship with Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie going back to 2015.

That year, Facebook said, it learned that Kogan lied to the company and violated its policies by sharing data he acquired with a so-called “research app” that used Facebook’s login system.

Kogan was not immediately available for comment.

The thisisyourdigitallife app was downloaded by about 270,000 people. Facebook said Kogan gained access to profile and other information “in a legitimate way” but “did not subsequently abide by our rules” when he passed the data to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Wylie.

Facebook said it cut ties to Kogan’s app when it learned of the violation, and asked for certification from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed.

Although all certified they had destroyed the data, Facebook said it received reports in the past several days that “not all data was deleted.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Political candidates, groups and others will be able to place ads on Facebook and Instagram beginning on Thursday.(Reuters)
Political candidates, groups and others will be able to place ads on Facebook and Instagram beginning on Thursday.(Reuters)

Facebook lifts ban on US political, social issue ads

Posted by Prashasti Singh | AP, Washington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 06:31 AM IST
Facebook halted U.S. political ads when the polls closed on Nov. 3, an extension of an earlier restriction on new political ads in the week leading up to Election Day.
Close
Police and soldiers opened fire with live rounds with little warning, witnesses said.(AP Photo)
Police and soldiers opened fire with live rounds with little warning, witnesses said.(AP Photo)

Nearly 40 killed in violent day of protests against Myanmar coup, says UN envoy

Posted by Prashasti Singh | Reuters
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 06:26 AM IST
The bloodshed occurred one day after neighbouring countries had called for restraint in the aftermath of the military's overthrow of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Close
It’s a political gamble for Sunak since the Conservative government will be campaigning for re-election in 2024 around the time when the tightening starts to bite.(REUTERS)
It’s a political gamble for Sunak since the Conservative government will be campaigning for re-election in 2024 around the time when the tightening starts to bite.(REUTERS)

Rishi Sunak delays UK fiscal squeeze until year before next election

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 06:21 AM IST
Tax and spending measures in the chancellor of the exchequer’s annual budget will add 73 billion pounds ($101 billion) to the economy by April 2023.
Close
Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace with Prince Charles to travel to parliament for her speech at the official State Opening of Parliament in London.(AP file photo)
Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace with Prince Charles to travel to parliament for her speech at the official State Opening of Parliament in London.(AP file photo)

Buckingham Palace 'very concerned' about bullying claims by former staff

Reuters, London
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 06:13 AM IST
The Royal Household will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace, Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
Close
Trump’s advisers have discussed identifying a Black or female running mate for his next run.(REUTERS)
Trump’s advisers have discussed identifying a Black or female running mate for his next run.(REUTERS)

Donald Trump weighs 2024 run without Mike Pence, say allies

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 05:46 AM IST
Trump publicly teased at the Conservative Political Action Conference last Sunday that he’s mulling another bid for president.
Close
The company's Starship prototypes fires its thrusters as it lands during a test in Boca Chica, Texas, on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The two previous attempts ended in explosions. (SpaceX via AP)
The company's Starship prototypes fires its thrusters as it lands during a test in Boca Chica, Texas, on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The two previous attempts ended in explosions. (SpaceX via AP)

SpaceX’s biggest rocket successfully lands in third try

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 05:38 AM IST
SpaceX conceived the stainless steel Starship as a versatile, fully reusable craft that can carry 100 metric tons for deep-space missions to the moon and Mars.
Close
In September 2020, the New York Times cited previously undisclosed returns in reporting that Trump had claimed chronic losses for years as a way to avoid taxes.(AP)
In September 2020, the New York Times cited previously undisclosed returns in reporting that Trump had claimed chronic losses for years as a way to avoid taxes.(AP)

Biden administration asks for more time on decision to release Trump taxes

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 05:32 AM IST
Other lawsuits over the president’s tax records involving his accountants and bankers reached the Supreme Court, which ruled that Congress could not compel disclosure.
Close
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of the country's 16 states agreed to measures aimed at balancing concern over the impact of more contagious coronavirus variants.(AP)
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of the country's 16 states agreed to measures aimed at balancing concern over the impact of more contagious coronavirus variants.(AP)

Germany extends Covid-19 lockdown but paves way to relax more curbs

PTI, Berlin
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 05:14 AM IST
The first moves have already been made: many elementary students returned to school last week. Current lockdown rules were set to run through Sunday.
Close
US President Joe Biden called the jailing of Navalny “politically motivated.”(Bloomberg)
US President Joe Biden called the jailing of Navalny “politically motivated.”(Bloomberg)

Biden forced to pull Tanden nomination for key budget post

By Yashwant Raj, Washington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:56 AM IST
  • She will eventually have a role in the Biden administration, but it was not immediately clear how.
Close
The defeat comes as a major setback for PM Khan’s government.(REUTERS)
The defeat comes as a major setback for PM Khan’s government.(REUTERS)

PM Khan to seek vote of confidence in parl, says report

Agencies, Islamabad
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:54 AM IST
  • Gilani received 169 votes to Sheikh’s 164, election authorities and opposition parties said.
Close
The meeting of senior officials was chaired by Pakistan’s finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to review efforts in the aftermath of the FATF’s plenary meeting last month.(Via social media/ twitter)
The meeting of senior officials was chaired by Pakistan’s finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to review efforts in the aftermath of the FATF’s plenary meeting last month.(Via social media/ twitter)

Pak needs to enact laws to fulfil FATF targets

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:51 AM IST
  • The FATF said Pakistan had “largely addressed” 24 of the 27 items in the action plan.
Close
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US.(REUTERS)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US.(REUTERS)

Scandal-hit Cuomo may see emergency powers taken away

AP, Albany
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:46 AM IST
  • The governor hasn’t taken questions from reporters since a February 19 briefing, an unusually long gap for a Democrat whose daily, televised updates on the coronavirus pandemic were must-see TV last spring.
Close
“An important moment is upon us,” Sunak told the House of Commons.(Yahoo)
“An important moment is upon us,” Sunak told the House of Commons.(Yahoo)

UK extends job support, tax breaks for pandemic-hit economy

AP, London
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:41 AM IST
  • He also said Britain must be prepared to cut the deficit, announcing plans to increase the tax on corporate profits and boost revenue from personal income taxes in 2023.
Close
The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that Donald Trump will rise again to power on March 4, which was the original presidential inauguration day, until 1933, when it was moved to January 20.(AFP)
The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that Donald Trump will rise again to power on March 4, which was the original presidential inauguration day, until 1933, when it was moved to January 20.(AFP)

Police warn of militant plot to ‘breach’ US Capitol

Reuters, Washington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:37 AM IST
  • The Capitol police statement noted that it already has made “significant security upgrades” at the Capitol, home to the US House of Representatives and Senate.
Close
Earlier in the day, a human rights group said security forces opened fire on protests and killed at least 18 people on Wednesday, a day after neighbouring countries called for restraint and offered to help Myanmar resolve the crisis.
Earlier in the day, a human rights group said security forces opened fire on protests and killed at least 18 people on Wednesday, a day after neighbouring countries called for restraint and offered to help Myanmar resolve the crisis.

38 killed on ‘bloodiest day’, says UN envoy

Agencies, Yangon
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 12:27 AM IST
  • “It’s horrific, it’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters via a messaging app.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP