A data-mining company named Cambridge Analytica is at the heart of a new controversy over online privacy and election interference.
The London, England-based business is accused of having obtained personal data from approximately 50 million Facebook accounts and having used it to help the Trump campaign win the election.
According to reports, Facebook gave University of Cambridge Professor Aleksandr Kogan access to these accounts via a survey he created for the social media site.
From there, Kogan handed the data he had on Facebook profiles to Analytica, which then used the information to supposedly help the Trump campaign better target voters on the site.
As the controversy over the apparent breach of privacy and potential legal action is being considered, here are seven things to know about the scandal.
1. Ted Cruz Campaign Used the Data in 2015
Although Cambridge Analytica’s mining of Facebook profile data has been tied to Donald Trump’s campaign, a different Republican presidential hopeful first received access back in 2015.
A 2015 Guardian article noted that the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas had used the mined Facebook data, with the publication referring to Analytica as being “embedded within Cruz’s campaign.”
“Cruz has turned to Cambridge Analytica for its unparalleled offering of psychological data based on a treasure trove of Facebook ‘likes,’ allowing it to match individuals’ traits with existing voter datasets, such as who owned a gun,” reported the Guardian in Dec. 2015.
“Analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings shows Cruz’s campaign has paid Cambridge Analytica at least $750,000 this year.”
In a statement released Tuesday by a spokesperson, Cruz’s office said that the usage of the data was legal and that “all data used by them were obtained legally.”
2. Obama Campaign Also Mined Data From Facebook
During the 2012 presidential election season, President Barack Obama’s campaign mined a great deal of personal data from Facebook, according to a former campaign official.
Carol Davidsen, former director of integration and media analytics for Obama for America, stated in a series of posts on Twitter that back in 2012 the Democratic campaign used data from Facebook.
“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,” tweeted Davidsen, as quoted by the Independent Journal Review.
“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.”
3. Cambridge Analytica Has Ties to Influential Republicans
While its website describes itself as a “non-partisan organization,” Cambridge Analytica has ties to influential Republicans, including major rightwing billionaire funder Robert Mercer.
“Libertarian billionaire Robert Mercer holds an ownership stake in Cambridge Analytica and late last year sold his shares in Breitbart to his daughter Rebekah,” reported Newsweek.
Steve Bannon, former White House adviser under the Trump administration and head of Breitbart, sat on Analytica’s board from 2014-2016, according to the Guardian.
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Source: Christian Post