Cambridge Analytica used more apps to steal data, former employee claims

Facebook estimates as many as 87 million users had data compromised from a single app — but now a former employee of Cambridge Analytica testified that the company could have used at least two other personality quiz apps to access data — and that other companies could have similar campaigns. During a hearing on Tuesday, April 17, Brittany Kaiser, a former employee at Cambridge Analytica, testified before a committee of U.K. Parliament members, suggesting the company’s data use extended beyond the “thisisyourdigitallife” app.

Kaiser began working with Cambridge Analytica in 2015 and left in January, working to pitch potential advertisers to use the research firm. She says she was not part of the leadership or management team and did not have access to data. While Kaiser says she was surprised to hear the reports on how Cambridge Analytica, Global Science Research, and Alexander Kogan used data without permission, she testified before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on the culture of the company and ad tech industry in general, along with sharing information she’d uncovered since.

“I can say that I was concerned about what I read in the media in 2015, and was assured by company executives in January that they had taken appropriate action to comply with the law and contractual requirements, including deleting all Facebook data,” Kaiser wrote in her statement. “But it’s important also to emphasise [sic] that during most of my time at Cambridge Analytica, the culture and assumptions of the firm and the wider data brokerage and ad tech industries within which it operated were a bit ‘Wild West,’ with citizens’ data being scraped, resold and modelled [sic] willy-nilly. I have gained further understanding and perspective on these issues in recent weeks. I do believe I have evidence of CA obtaining, retaining and using these datasets, seemingly in contravention of legal obligations.”

During her testimony, she also noted that Cambridge Analytica was including Facebook data in their pitches to advertisers, even after the company claimed to have deleted the data from the thisisyourdigitallife app. An email she recovered from two months after the data was supposedly deleted also confirmed the company was still using information based on Facebook likes.

But Kaiser suggests that thisisyourdigitallife wasn’t the only app used by Cambridge Analytica — and other companies likely did the same thing.

During her testimony, she noted at least two other apps as examples, one called Sex Compass and Music Personality. She said that, while pitching potential advertisers as part of her job, she would see viral personality quizzes, not all designed by Cambridge Analytica or associated companies. Kaiser said that “these applications were designed specifically to harvest data from individuals, using Facebook as the tool.”

Since banning Cambridge Analytica from the social network, Facebook says that it opened audits into apps that could have accessed data in a similar way, before the company discontinued the option for users to give out permission to access friend data. Last week, CubeYou was banned pending an investigation after allegations of similar data misuse.

Facebook agreed to temporarily delay its own internal investigations when requested by the U.K. for an official investigation. 

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