Emails reveal Facebook's knowledge of Cambridge Analytica

Andrew Cummings
August 25, 2019

It wasn't until more than two years later, in March 2018, that the New York Times and The Guardian really blew the lid off the the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

One individual, whose name is redacted, even labeled Cambridge Analytica specifically on September 22 as "the largest and most aggressive" company engaged in "matching social data to voter files".

According to The Guardian, which had first reported about this internal discussion in March this year, Facebook staff had raised the issue of improper data collection by firms in September, which would be almost four months before the December 2015 date, which the company had claimed.

"Facebook was not aware that [data was sold] to Cambridge Analytica until December 2015, wrote Paul Grewal, Facebook's deputy general counsel, in a blog post".

The correspondence (PDF), which starts in September 2015 and runs through February 2016, provides fresh insight into when Facebook employees became aware of potential problems with the way Cambridge Analytica and other outside companies were using data from the social network.

"One involved unconfirmed reports of scraping - accessing or collecting public data from our products using automated means - and the other involved policy violations by Aleksandr Kogan, an app developer who sold user data to Cambridge Analytica", he elaborated.

In a blog post late on Friday, Grewal said that they agree with the District of Columbia Attorney General to jointly make public a September 2015 document in which Facebook employees discuss public data scraping.

"Can you expedite the review of Cambridge Analytica or let us know what the next steps are?" one employee said.

A newly revealed document shows Facebook employees discussing Cambridge Analytica before the story exploded in the media.

"Cambridge Analytica was a clear lapse for us, which we have worked hard to address", Facebook added.

In a statement, Facebook said releasing the document risked confusing the public into thinking that Facebook's September concerns about Cambridge Analytica related to Kogan's practices. "That may be a undeniable fact that we now have testified to underneath oath, that we now have described to our core regulators, and that we stand by right this moment".

Cambridge Analytica gets another direct mention ("the Cambridge app") on the same day. Facebook was initially concerned about Cambridge Analytica's potential use of "scraping", a method of pulling online data.

The documents were revealed as part of the ongoing case by the District of Columbia against Facebook for its failure to protect consumers' private data.

Other reports by iNewsToday