Portions of the Cambridge Analytica data on as many as 50 million Facebook users may still be out in the wild, according to a report yesterday from the UK’s Channel 4 News. The news organization says it has seen a cache of data dating back to the 2014 survey results Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan collected with his app “thisisyourdigitallife.” Kogan later sold that data to Cambridge Analytica, which had connections to the Trump campaign and may have used it to inform election ad targeting. The data in question here “details 136,000 individuals in the US state of Colorado, along with each person’s personality and psychological profile,” Channel 4 reports.
This would appear to refute Cambridge Analytica’s claims as the scandal unfolded over the last two weeks that it deleted the Facebook data back in 2015 and is not guilty of any wrongdoing. Cambridge Analytica is currently under investigation from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, and the company has volunteered to undergo an independent third-party audit to clear its name.
Still, the full extent of Cambridge Analytica’s actions remains murky, with the company’s CEO Alexander Nix suspended and facing a “full, independent investigation” of his comments made to undercover Channel 4 journalists. Those comments detailed the firm’s use of bribery, blackmail, and other unsavory techniques to compromise politicians and impact geopolitical situations on behalf of its clients.
“We have never passed any data from GSR [Global Science Research] to an external party. After Facebook contacted us in December 2015 we deleted all GSR data and took appropriate steps to ensure that any copies of the data were deleted,” reads the statement Cambridge Analytica provided to Channel 4. “This includes our lawyers taking action in late 2014 against a number of former staff members who had stolen data and intellectual property from the company. These former staff members each signed an undertaking promising that they had deleted all such material. It is untrue that we failed to take appropriate measures to ensure that GSR data were deleted.”
In a statement addressing the recent revelations that Cambridge Analytica has not deleted al the data, Facebook says it’s committed to working with the UK’s ICO to get clarity on the matter. “Two weeks ago, we received reports from media, including Channel 4, that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted. Cambridge Analytica have confirmed publicly that they no longer have the data, others are challenging this, we are determined to find out the facts,” Paul Grewal, Facebook’s vice president and deputy general counsel, told Channel 4 in a statement. “The ICO has launched an investigation into Cambridge Analytica and we are assisting with this. We want to assure people that we have suspended Cambridge Analytica from Facebook.”