San Francisco, March 18: After suspending Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), along with its political data alytics firm Cambridge Alytica, for violating its policies and commitments, Facebook has denied any data breach as claimed by some media reports.
"The claim that this is a data breach is completely false," Paul Grewal, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Facebook said on Saturday. On the same day, the Guardian reported that in one of the tech giant's biggest ever data breaches, the data alytics firm that worked with Dold Trump's election team harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters and used them to build a powerful software programme to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.
Owned by the hedge fund billioire Robert Mercer, Cambridge Alytica was headed at the time by Trump's key adviser Steve Bannon. A whistleblower revealed to the Observer how the firm used persol information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with persolised political advertisements. "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 the entire company was built on," Christopher Wylie, who worked with a Cambridge University academic to obtain the data, told the Observer. Explaining why it suspended Cambridge Alytica and SCL Group from Facebook, Grewal on Friday said, "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 Alytica."
"He also passed that data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc.," Grewal added. But it did not amount to data breach, according to Facebook. "Aleksandr Kogan requested and gained access to information from users who chose to sign up to his app, and everyone involved gave their consent," Grewal said in an upate. "People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked," he added.(IANS)