Cambridge Analytica, the U.K. based data firm has been at the heart of the privacy breach that has wiped billions off the value of Facebook. Earlier, it was claimed nearly 87 million people may have had their data harvested.
However, according to a former Cambridge Analytica employee, the number of users who may have had their Facebook data compromised by the notorious firm could be much higher than previously anticipated.
Brittany Kaiser, who said she worked for the company for almost three years before leaving in January, testified before the United Kingdom's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in London as part of its investigation into disinformation and fake news.
Speaking before the committee, Kaiser said “Thisisyourdigital life" wasn’t the only app Cambridge Analytica Chief Alexander Kogan created to surreptitiously access millions of Facebook profiles.
In fact, the data firm along with its partners reportedly used wide range of surveys to collect information on Facebook users — including a "sex compass" app that asked people about their "personal preferences."
Kaiser provided written evidence to the British Parliament as part of a hearing on fake news.
She wrote in a statement:
“The Kogan/GSR datasets and questionnaires were not the only Facebook-connected questionnaires and datasets which Cambridge Analytica used. I am aware in a general sense of a wide range of surveys which were done by CA or its partners, usually with a Facebook login – for example, the ‘sex compass’ quiz.
“I do not know the specifics of these surveys or how the data was acquired or processed. But I believe it is almost certain that the number of Facebook users whose data was compromised through routes similar to that used by Kogan is much greater than 87 million; and that both Cambridge Analytica and other unconnected companies and campaigns were involved in these activities.”
In her oral statement, the former employee said:
“When I first joined the company, our creative and psychology teams, and data science teams, would work together to design some of these questionnaires.
“In my pitches I used to give examples, even to clients, that if you go on Facebook and you see these viral personality quizzes that not all of them would be designed by Cambridge Analytica, SCL group or our affiliates, but these applications were designed specifically to harvest data from individuals using Facebook as the tool.
“So I know, at least of those two examples, the music version and the sex compass, which were both quizzes that were separate from Aleksandr Kogan’s quiz. Therefore it can be inferred or implied that there were many additional individuals as opposed to just the ones through Aleksandr Kogan’s test whose may have been compromised.”
However, considering privacy changes were not made on Facebook until 2015, Cambridge Analytica is far from the only firm that reportedly gained access to vast amounts of users’ personal information. Until 2014, Facebook's developer platform allowed third parties — usually a developer who made a game, or a personality quiz, or some other app used on the social media— to take almost any data they wanted from a user who authorized their app.
That is why Kaiser also blamed Facebook, as its policies resulted in the company’s failure to protect users’ data.
As always, the social media giant gave empty assurances of taking corrective measures:
“We are currently investigating all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014. We will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected.”
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