As the 2020 elections just keep getting closer and concerns about deception and interference remain, there’s now a formal confirmation of just how bad that the situation got in 2016. The Federal Trade Commission issued a unanimous ruling this week concluding that Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that eventually went all in for Trump’s 2016 campaign, deceived internet users by claiming that a certain app would not be collecting users’ personal information. In fact, that’s exactly what it was doing, and the firm used their data for targeted political messaging.
At this point, the scandal has already forced the company to completely shut down. At least some of those involved have continued similar work under the new name of Emerdata. Still, in the meantime, federal authorities have now issued yet another formal complaint against the company’s remains. CBS reports:
‘The Federal Trade Commission has found that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica deceived tens of millions of Facebook users by purposefully collecting their personal data for “voter profiling and targeting.” The FTC issued a unanimous opinion on Friday confirming allegations made in a July administrative complaint that alleged app developer Aleksandr Kogan and Cambridge Analytica’s former CEO Alexander Nix worked together to enable Kogan’s GSRApp “to collect Facebook data from app users and their Facebook friends,” according to the opinion. The FTC confirmed that the app lied to users by saying it would not collect their names or other identifiable information.’
In the same ruling, the FTC also confirmed that the company violated a privacy agreement between the U.S. and European Union meant to protect consumer data moving from the E.U. to the U.S.
Facebook itself has been implicated in related allegations. This past summer, the FTC slapped the technology giant with a fine of a whopping $5 billion. For perspective, CBS notes that in 2017 as a whole, Facebook’s profit was $22 billion.
The company has faced criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike. The GOP has completely baselessly claimed that the platform and other social media sites like Twitter have purposefully suppressed conservative content. Meanwhile, Democrats have expressed concern about the platform’s almost completely blind eye to often dangerous far-right content that spreads via its system. Company head Mark Zuckerberg — who’s testified to Congress during this whole ordeal — has defended his platform’s generous standards in the name of free speech, although for the record, that’s obviously not necessary. Just recently, Twitter announced that they’d be completely fazing out political ads altogether. On the other hand, Facebook has been allowing political candidates running ads on their platform to blatantly lie.
Former Cambridge Analytica official Brittany Kaiser commented:
‘There is not proper legislation, or regulation, or technology available to track and trace the usage of that data. And I think going forward there needs to be a better solution for making sure that agencies much bigger than Cambridge Analytica as well are playing by the rules.’
The deception surrounding Cambridge Analytica matches deception that buoyed the Trump campaign through other means. They got a boost from Russian misinformation campaigns — and more recently, Trump has been trying to make it happen again via help from Ukraine.