Facebook suspends Trump's data analysis firm for rules violations

MANILA, Philippines – Facebook announced late on Friday, March 16, it was suspending Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), including its data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, for policy violations pertaining to data retention and collection.

In a statement, Facebook wrote that in 2015, "a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge named Dr. Aleksandr Kogan lied to us and violated our Platform Policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook Login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica, a firm that does political, government and military work around the globe. He also passed that data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc."

The Verge said Donald Trump's campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 to run data operations for the campaign. 

What happened? 

Kogan's app, "thisisyourdigitallife," was a profiling app billing itself as "a research app used by psychologists."

Some 270,000 people downloaded the application. Those picking up the app gave permission for the app to grab information on the downloader, "such as the city they set on their profile, or content they had liked, as well as more limited information about friends who had their privacy settings set to allow it," Facebook explained.

Kogan violated Facebook's policies by passing the information on to a third party, which in this case included SCL and Cambridge Analytica, as well as Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies.

After finding out about the policy violation, Facebook had the offending parties certify they had destroyed improperly collected data. "Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie all certified to us that they destroyed the data," Facebook said.

It doesn't end there, however, as Facebook recently received reports the data was not all destroyed despite the certifications given. The company is moving to verify the claims and is suspending SCL, Cambridge Analytica, Wylie, and Kogan from the social network till it gets more information.

Why is this important?  

Facebook banks its reputation on trust, and people working with Facebook in some manner who violate that trust can bring massive consequences for the social media giant's own perception in the public sphere.

A February report from Vox said that separately from Cambridge Analytica, the Trump Campaign hired digital marketing firm Giles-Pascale for social media microtargeting. It added, "Cambridge Analytica convinced Parscale to “try out the firm.” The decision was encouraged by Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Steve Bannon, who was also a former vice president of Cambridge Analytica."

While it's unclear if Cambridge Analytica actually helped the Trump campaign, the campaign's social media push was effective.

Furthermore, the perception that Facebook got hoodwinked in this manner hurts its reputation in terms of vetting interested parties who want to use Facebook. The company has likely made some changes since then, such as instituting manual and automated checks on apps using Facebook. Still, this tarnishes Facebook's record somewhat. – Rappler.com