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FTC sues Cambridge Analytica and restricts former CEO’s business activity

Controversial app developer also settles

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

As the Federal Trade Commission imposes a landmark $5 billion fine against Facebook, the agency also announced separate action today against controversial data-mining company Cambridge Analytica.

The FTC said in an administrative complaint that Cambridge Analytica deceptively harvested the information of Facebook users through a personality test app. The company has since filed for bankruptcy and has not settled the agency’s complaint.

The agency said it also reached settlements with two individuals: former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix and former University of Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan.

Kogan was responsible for developing the app used by Cambridge Analytica to harvest data from Facebook users in the guise of a harmless personality test. The app, the FTC’s complaint confirms, took information from at least 250,000 Facebook users who used it, as well as at least 50 million of their friends on the social network.

The FTC alleges that the app falsely told users that it would not “download your name or any other identifiable information.” Cambridge Analytica used the information to power its voter profiling and ad targeting services, according to the FTC. Facebook has since restricted the ability of apps on its platform to harvest data.

Under the FTC settlements, Nix and Kogan will be required to destroy any personal information they still hold. They will also be restricted from making any false or deceptive statements in the future about personal information. The FTC has not yet published the text of the agreements.

While the $5 billion action today against Facebook will likely generate the most headlines, the FTC’s move against Cambridge Analytica and settlement with two of the scandal’s major players follows a global controversy that ultimately tanked the data-mining firm.