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Facebook in Hot Water after Details of Data Harvesting by Voter-Profiling Company Exposed

Rudy Verner and  Yasmina Shaush

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On March 17, 2018, The New York Times reported Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling company, acquired personal information from 50 million users on the social networking site Facebook using a personality quiz.

While only 270,000 people took the quiz, because users consented to provide access to friends’ profiles, Cambridge Analytica collected data from over 50 million profiles. The brain child of Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University academic, Mr. Kogan originally obtained permission from Facebook to pull user data by claiming it was for academic purposes.

Since the story broke, Facebook has suspended Mr. Kogan, Cambridge Analytica, and other key company personnel. The Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission filed complaints against Cambridge Analytica for violating U.S. election laws.

Despite earlier reluctance, founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, agreed to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in April regarding concerns over data privacy. Concerns about consumer data protection are at an all time high as the European Union prepares to enforce a new data protection regime, the General Data Protection Regulation. The sweeping regulation may impact a significant number of U.S. companies that would not typically expect to be subject to EU law. The Cambridge Analytica controversy could also prompt Congress to take steps to enhance online privacy protection in the U.S.