Report: Facebook Suspends Another Data Analytics Firm As Scandal Widens

Apr 9, 2018

As the Facebook scandal over Cambridge Analytica's misuse of the personal data of millions of users continues to unfold, Facebook is suspending another data analytics firm over similar allegations.

According to reporting by CNBC, Cubeyou collected data from Facebook users through personality quizzes "for non-profit academic research" developed with Cambridge University — then sold the data to advertisers.

Cubeyou denies wrongdoing, and Cubeyou CEO Federico Treu told CNBC that it "had the rights disclaimers on a separate site." The personality quiz websites at the center of the allegations were jointly developed with Cambridge University's Psychometrics Center. Its director, John Rust, told NPR that contrary to what CNBC reported, users "consented to their data being used for both academic and business purposes."

Even still, the new allegations raise questions about how widespread the misuse of data was among Facebook's third-party app developers.

"These are serious claims and we have suspended CubeYou from Facebook while we investigate them," Ime Archibong, Facebook vice president of product partnerships, told CNBC. "If they refuse or fail our audit, their apps will be banned from Facebook."

The claims here have clear parallels to Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm that obtained data of 87 million users — those who took a personality quiz, and their friends.

On Monday, Facebook will begin informing those users who were impacted by the data grab, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify to lawmakers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cambridge's Psychometrics Centre is linked to the personality quizzes of both Cubeyou and Cambridge Analytica. Facebook's Archibong told CNBC that the company is asking U.K. authorities to request information about "the development of apps in general by its Psychometrics Centre given this case and the misuse by [Aleksandr] Kogan," the professor who developed the Cambridge Analytica quiz.

According to the BBC, "Cambridge University denied working with Cambridge Analytica or its parent company SCL and said it had never provided any data, algorithms or expertise."

Rust, the center director, stressed that its "apps have at all times followed Facebook's developer policies and the use of data collected by them has always been in line with consent given by their users."

He added that "several of CubeYou's claims on its blog appear to be misleading and we have contacted them to request clarification."

Cubeyou's website says it offers marketers "all the best consumer data sources in one place," including information gathered from social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The quizzes in question, called "Apply Magic Sauce" and "You are what you like," predict a quiz-taker's "psycho-democratic profile" based on what they have liked and posted on Facebook or Twitter.

Facebook is initiating ways to make it easier for users to understand how their data is being used.

"Starting Monday, we're going to start rolling out to everyone in the world, right on the top of their news feed, a place where you can see all the apps you've shared your data with and a really easy way to delete them," Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told NPR last week.

As NPR's Aarti Shahani reported, Facebook says it is also taking steps to limit other kinds of data sharing:

"For example, if I'm advertising an event, if I'm organizing an event on Facebook, it used to be that the people who are going to join my event would be visible to third-party developers, but Facebook is changing that so that now the guest list is guarded. The comments for the event are guarded as one step. And really, you know, what you're seeing is Facebook sending out the message incrementally that, hey, we know that our borders were porous, but we're building a wall."

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