Technology Professor Apologizes for Helping Cambridge Analytica Harvest Facebook Data

18:32  23 april  2018
18:32  23 april  2018 Source:   nytimes.com

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Help . (NEW YORK) — Facebook ’s CEO apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal with ads in multiple U.S. and British newspapers Sunday The ads signed by Mark Zuckerberg said a quiz app built by a Cambridge University researcher leaked Facebook data of millions of people four years ago.

The New York Times. Media| Professor Apologizes for Helping Cambridge Analytica Harvest Facebook Data . Search. Subscribe Now.

a tree in the dark: Aleksandr Kogan, the academic who created an app to harvest data from tens of millions of Facebook profiles, said the company knew what he was doing. © Josh Edelson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Aleksandr Kogan, the academic who created an app to harvest data from tens of millions of Facebook profiles, said the company knew what he was doing.

Aleksandr Kogan, the academic who was hired by Cambridge Analytica to harvest information from tens of millions of Facebook profiles, defended his role in the data collection on Sunday, saying he was upfront about how the information would be used and that he “never heard a word” of objection from Facebook.

Yet Mr. Kogan, 28, a psychology professor who has found himself cast as the villain by both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, expressed regret for his role in the data mining, which took place in 2014.

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As a start-up called Cambridge Analytica sought to harvest the Facebook data of tens of millions of Americans in summer 2014, the company received help from at least one employee at Palantir Technologies, a top Silicon Valley contractor to American spy agencies and the Pentagon.

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“Back then, we thought it was fine. Right now my opinion has really been changed,” he said.

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“I think that the core idea we had — that everybody knows, and nobody cares — was wrong,” Mr. Kogan added. “For that, I am sincerely sorry.”

[Read The Times’s coverage of how Trump consultants exploited the Facebook data of millions.]

Since the full scope of Cambridge Analytica’s data collection was revealed last month by The New York Times, both Facebook and Cambridge, a political data firm, have been under intense scrutiny and eager to shift the blame to Mr. Kogan.

They have said that he misled them about how the information was being collected and what it was being used for. Facebook has even banned Mr. Kogan from the social network and deleted his profile.

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How The Data Harvest Worked. In early 2014, Kogan, a lecturer at Cambridge University, cofounded a company, Global Science Research, for the purpose of working with Kogan told the BBC last week that he was “being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica .”

The data was harvested with the collaboration of Cambridge Analytica and Cambridge University’s Psychology Professor Aleksandr Kogan. Facebook has also insisted that whatever Cambridge Analytica did was not a data breach.

But in his first extensive interview since the report in The Times, Mr. Kogan insisted that he was upfront about the Facebook app used to harvest the data, and that no one seemed to care.

“The belief in Silicon Valley and certainly our belief at that point was that the general public must be aware that their data is being sold and shared and used to advertise to them,” Mr. Kogan said in an interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday.

Founded by Stephen K. Bannon and Robert Mercer, a wealthy Republican donor, Cambridge Analytica rose to prominence for its work with President Trump’s campaign in the 2016 election. The company claimed it had developed analytical tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior — and that Facebook data had been used to help create so-called psychographic modeling techniques.

The techniques have been widely questioned by academics and other political data firms, and Cambridge Analytica has since insisted that the Facebook data was not used in its work in the 2016 campaign.

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Whistleblower Christopher Wylie, pictured, was central to Cambridge Analytica 's work in using Facebook to target voters and help manipulate them. He said that in 2015 Facebook learned University of Cambridge professor Dr Aleksandr Kogan passed on data to a third party.

Facebook believes “most” of its 2 billion users had their data harvested . by Alex Christoforou April 5 The revelation comes amid the growing Cambridge Analytica scandal which broke last month. The 33-year-old also apologized for the “breach of trust” and pledged to make changes in Facebook

Mr. Kogan was hired on a contract by Cambridge Analytica in June 2014 — the same month the company was founded — and harvested the data throughout the summer by asking Facebook users to take a lengthy personality questionnaire.

The questionnaire was not actually on Facebook. It was hosted by a company called Qualtrics, which provided a platform for online surveys. Respondents were asked to authorize access to their Facebook profiles, and when they did, an app built by Mr. Kogan performed its sole function: harvesting the data of users and all of their Facebook friends. Their names, birth dates and location data, as well as lists of every Facebook page they had ever liked, were downloaded without their knowledge or express consent.

Facebook has said that those who took the quiz were told that their data would be used only for academic purposes, claiming that it and its users were misled by Cambridge Analytica and Mr. Kogan. Cambridge Analytica has said it was told that Mr. Kogan’s app complied with Facebook’s own rules.

But The Times reported last month that the fine print accompanying Mr. Kogan’s questionnaire told Facebook users that their data could be used for commercial purposes. That was an outright violation of Facebook’s rules at the time, but the company did nothing to stop Mr. Kogan’s app from collecting the data.

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Facebook is under pressure after it acknowledged that Cambridge Analytica improperly stored a huge trove of its user data . What happened? Facebook said it gave permission to University of Cambridge psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan to harvest information from users who

David Carroll, a US design professor who is challenging Cambridge Analytica through the UK courts to access his data profile harvested from Facebook , called the reforms “inadequate”.

“This is the frustrating bit, where Facebook clearly has never cared. I mean, it’s never enforced this agreement,” Mr. Kogan told “60 Minutes.”

“I had a terms of service that was up there for a year and a half that said I could transfer and sell the data,” he continued, adding: “Never heard a word.”

Until April 2015, Facebook allowed app developers to collect some private information from the profiles of users who downloaded apps, and from those of their friends. Facebook has said it allowed this kind of data collection to help developers improve the “in-app” experience for users.

Facebook even worked with Mr. Kogan. In November 2015, it brought him in as a consultant to explain the technique he had used for Cambridge Analytica, which focused on how the Facebook pages that users had “liked” could reveal aspects of their personalities.

“At the time, I thought we were doing everything that was correct,” Mr. Kogan told “60 Minutes.”

“If I had any inkling that what I was going to do was going to destroy my relationship with Facebook, I would never have done it,” he said.

Twitter Sold Cambridge Analytica Researcher Public Data Access .
Twitter Inc. sold data access to the Cambridge University academic who also obtained millions of Facebook Inc. users’ information that was later passed to a political consulting firm without the users’ consent. Aleksandr Kogan, who created a personality quiz on Facebook to harvest information later used by Cambridge Analytica, established his own commercial enterprise, Global Science Research (GSR). That firm was granted access to large-scale public Twitter data, covering months of posts, for one day in 2015, according to Twitter.

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