Cambridge Analytica: The Latest Developments

Yesterday the marketing industry was rocked by the news that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had collected millions of Facebook profiles of US voters without permission, and Facebook had waited almost two years after discovering the activities to alert users.

Since the news emerged, lawmakers in both the US and UK have criticised the activities of Facebook and Cambridge, and begun steps to investigate both firms, and how the data was potentially used to influence the 2016 US Presidential election.

The fallout from this story is still just beginning, and new details are being discovered and disclosed constantly. You can keep up to date with all our coverage here, and well aim to keep you informed of all the latest developments as the occur.

Mark Zuckerberg called to give evidence before UK parliament
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been called on by a parliamentary committee to give evidence about the use of personal data by Cambridge Analytica.

Damian Collins, the chairperson of the Commons inquiry into fake news, accused Facebook of “misleading” the committee, and has put a request into writing, calling for the CEO to appear before MPs for questioning.

“It is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process,” wrote Collins in his letter to Zuckerberg. “There is a strong public interest test regarding user protection. Accordingly we are sure you will understand the need for a representative from right at the top of the organisation to address concerns.

“Given your commitment at the start of the New Year to fixing Facebook, I hope that this representative will be you.”

According to The Verge, Facebook has scheduled an open meeting for employees for later today, providing them with a chance to ask questions of the companys executive team. Its not clear if Zuckerberg will be present for this meeting, which is being led by Paul Grewel, deputy general counsel for Facebook.

Warrant issued to inspect Cambridge Analytica
The UKs Information Commissioner is set to apply to court for a warrant to search the offices of Cambridge Analytica, the London-based data analytics and political consulting firm at the centre of the scandal.

According to Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner, her office has been investigating political campaigning and the use of political data for many months. During existing investigations, her office told Facebook to back away from its own investigations into Cambridge Analytica, for fear that it might damage the integrity of her own investigation. The Information Commission is also looking into whether Facebook acted correctly when it discovered the data breach.

Cambridge Analytica CEO caught offering to undermine politicians
Following the initial revelation centering on data harvesting from Facebook, Channel 4 News has released footage of Cambridge Analytica executives suggesting that it could use honey traps and potentially bribery to discredit politicians.

Alexander Nix, chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, appears in hidden camera footage discussing tactics his company used to undermine politicians, saying that one way to target individuals was to “offer them a deal thats too good to be true and make sure thats video recorded.”

He also mentions that he could “send some girls around to the candidates house…” and says that “Im just giving you examples of what can be done and what has been done.”

Cambridge Analytica has said that the footage “grossly misrepresented” the firm, and that the company “does not condone or engage in entrapment, bribes or so-called honey traps.”

Facebook security chief to change role after disagreement with executives
Alex Stamos, formerly the chief security officer at Facebook, is set to shift his role at the firm in the wake of disagreements with other Facebook executives. Stamos reportedly clashed with others over how to investigate and disclose Russian activity on the platform, advocating for greater disclosure.

The New York Times initially reported that Stamos would be leaving Facebook entirely, but Stamos rejected that claim on Twitter, writing that “despite the rumours, Im still fully engaged with my work at Facebook. Its true that my role did change. Im currently spending more time exploring emerging security risks and working on election security.”

Stamos has not commented on any future plans to leave Facebook, and according to the New York Times report, he was initially due to leave the company but was asked to remain until the end of August.  Stamos security team at the company has shrunk fromm 120 to just three, with many transferred to the product and infrastruture divisions within Facebook.

$40bn knocked off Facebook value following data breach disclosure
Facebook shares closed down nearly seven per cent on Monday, wiping almost $40bn (£28.6bn) off the companys market value as investors worried about the lasting damage to the firms reputation, and how news of the Cambridge Analytica data breach would impact ad spending on the platform.

So far today, shares have already fallen by another three per cent, suggesting that the emerging details of the story are not putting any investor fears to rest.

The investigation by the Information Commission in the UK could also hurt Facebooks bottom line – the organisation currently has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000, but in May it will gain the power to fine firms up to four per cent of their annual global turnover.