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10 Apr 2018

Cambridge Analytica faces incredible pressure over the Facebook data sharing scandal

Cambridge Analytica is facing incredible pressure over the Facebook data sharing scandal and not surprisingly, it's determined to share its version of events before Mark Zuckerberg testifies in congressional hearings.

The company has posted a "series of facts" that challenge some of the allegations made against the company. Not surprisingly, it started by insisting that it didn't do anything illegal: GSR "legally obtained" the data about Facebook users, and "did not illegally or inappropriately" scoop up and share data. Later on, it maintained that it "only collects data with informed consent."

After that, Cambridge Analytica jumped into specifics. The company "did not use" GSR data during the US presidential election or the UK's Brexit referendum, according to its statement. In the US, it relied on data from the RNC, voter registry, "commercial data brokers" and consensual data. In the UK, it subcontracted marketing and software work to AggregateIQ but didn't do any work for major Leave or Remain websites. The company also stressed that it was an affiliate of SCL Elections, not the same company, and denied Christopher Wylie's assertions that he's both a whistleblower and a Cambridge Analytica co-founder. Wylie was an SCL contractor who "has no recent knowledge" of what was happening, the company said.

The firm stressed that it was going through audits to show that it had deleted the data, and that the data for 'just' 30 million users of the estimated 87 million affected wounded up in its hands.

This is Cambridge Analytica's account, of course, and there's a lot it isn't addressing. While the company itself may gather data with permission, the whole uproar started because it sourced that data from someone who didn't. The "thisisyourdigitallife" app not only collected the info of users under the guise of academic research, but those of millions of friends who weren't even aware the app existed. And it's not up to Cambridge Analytica to decide whether or not it did anything wrong -- Facebook is dealing with an FTC investigation for potentially violating a consent decree, while numerous lawsuits are underway.

However accurate the rebuttal may be, the company's fate isn't really in its hands at this point. It's up to politicians and regulators to decide who's right, and they won't necessarily sympathize with Cambridge Analytica even if some of the claims about its practices are wildly off the mark.

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