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Facebook suspends Canadian data analytics firm over data scandal

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Facebook suspends Canadian data analytics firm over data scandal

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Facebook suspended Canadian political consultancy AggregateIQ over alleged improper access to user data and presumed ties to Cambridge Analytica.

“In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received FB user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate,” Facebook said in a statement.

SCL stands for Strategic Communication Laboratories — a government and military contractor that is the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Whistleblowers Christopher Wylie and Shahmir Sanni attend a protest opposite Parliament in London, Britain, March 29, 2018 REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower who worked with the UK-based Cambridge Analytica, said that AggregateIQ once received payment from the pro-Brexit campaign ahead of the 2016 UK referendum on ending its membership of the European Union.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, in charge of protecting privacy rights of individuals, said in a statement that it would investigate, along with their counterpart in British Columbia, whether Facebook and AggregateIQ gave unauthorised access to users’ Facebook data.

British Columbia’s privacy commissioner started investigating AggregateIQ last year over allegations that the company had broken provincial privacy rules for its role in the Brexit campaign.

On its website, AggregateIQ wrote that “it has never been a part of Cambridge Analytica or entered into a contract with the latter,” insisting the company complies with all “regulatory requirements” everywhere it works.

“AggregateIQ has never managed, nor did we ever have access to any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica,” says the website.

Facebook has been in the crosshair of users and regulators worldwide since last month, when it emerged that personal information of millions of users had been improperly shared with the UK-based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica by a third party.

The scandal was initially thought to have impacted 50 million users but in a blog post on Wednesday, Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer revised that figure upwards to 87 million - of whom 2.7 million are from the EU.

As a response to Facebook’s announcement, Cambridge Analytica tweeted that it had not received more than 30 million records of user data and that when they learned that the data had been improperly obtained they “immediately deleted the raw data” from their file server and began removing derivatives from their system.

The company added that they “did not use Facebook data or any derivatives in the US presidential election.”