Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix speaking at the 2016 Concordia Summit.Image: Getty Images for Concordia SummitBy Adam Rosenberg2018-03-18 21:19:29 UTC
The hits keep on coming for Facebook.
On Friday, the social media company booted the Donald Trump campaign-linked data firm Cambridge Analytica from its platform. On Saturday, we learned why: The firm played a role in secretly harvesting data belonging to more than 50 million users.
On Sunday, a third bomb dropped: Joseph Chancellor, currently a researcher at Facebook, may be connected to this whole mess.
A Sunday report from CNN reveals that Chancellor previously served as a director of Global Science Research (GSR). When whistleblower Christopher Wylie teamed up with Cambridge University’s Aleksandr Kogan to develop an app that could harvest Facebook user data, GSR was the company that data funneled through.
It’s not clear what Chancellor knew about GSR’s data collection practices, if he knew anything. CNN points out that Chancellor and Kogan were both listed as directors when GSR incorporated in May 2014, according to U.K. government records, but Cambridge Analytica claims “no recollection” of any emails or calls with Chancellor.
Kogan and Wylie have both been suspended from Facebook while the investigation plays out. Chancellor, who hasn’t personally commented, continues to work at Facebook, and the social media company confirmed to CNN that it is “looking into the situation.”
In 2014, Kogan and Wylie built an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” that paid participants for taking a personality test. The data gathered from these tests — which required test-takers to link the app with their Facebook profiles — was ostensibly to be used for academic purposes.
In reality, it formed the data-driven backbone of software that Cambridge Analytica used to profile U.S. voters and serve them personalized ads ahead of the 2016 election.
These facts emerged when Wylie, a Canadian data analytics expert, opted to blow the whistle on his past work in an interview with The Observer. Along with the story, he shared with the paper a dossier containing emails, bank records, and other evidence pointing to GSR’s data collection and the company’s connection to Cambridge Analytica.