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British Authorities: Russians Accessed Private Facebook Data

(VOA): British authorities said private Facebook information, which was gathered by data-mining company Cambridge Analytica without the consent or knowledge of the social media platform’s users, was accessed from computers based in Russia and other former Soviet states.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), a British government investigative office investigating the scandal, said in a statement Wednesday that “some of the systems linked to the investigation were accessed from IP addresses that resolve to Russia and other areas of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States].”

The CIS is a group of 10 countries, including Russia, that were part of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

In a March report, The New York Times described Cambridge Analytica as a firm that “offered tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior.” Facebook said an estimated 87 million users, mostly in the U.S., had their data accessed by the firm.

Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower within the firm, has alleged the data harvested may have been turned over to Russian operatives, in an effort to influence voters in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Wylie said the data gathered by the firm was used to build a psychological profile of a potential voter, which in turn would be used to target all voters through customized advertising.

“[Cambridge Analytica’s leaders] want to fight a culture war in America,” Wylie told the Times. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”

The firm, which has said none of the data was used in the election, was employed by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chief executive, once sat on Cambridge Analytica’s board of directors.

While Cambridge Analytica shuttered its doors in May, the investigation into its dealing is ongoing. Last week, the ICO announced it would fine Facebook 500,000 pounds ($663,000 USD) — the highest possible fine for violating British privacy laws — and that it would seek to prosecute SCL Elections Ltd., the now-defunct parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who currently is investigating possible Russian influence in the Trump campaign, is examining the firm’s relationship with the Trump campaign, ABC News reported in March.

Damian Collins, a Conservative member of the British Parliament who is leading the legislative body’s inquiry into the incident, confirmed the ICO’s findings Wednesday.

“I think what we want to know now is who were those people, and what access did they have, and were they actually able to take some of that data themselves and use it for whatever things they wanted,” Collins said.

According to the Times, the data was obtained through a Facebook app designed by Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at Cambridge University. The university has denied any ties to the firm.


(This story has not been edited by N24 staff and is Voice Of America auto-generated from a RSS feed)

Published Date: Thursday, July 19th, 2018 | 10:45 AM

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