As anger spreads over the improper use of user information, Facebook says it is the victim of a deception by Cambridge Analytica. The social media giant now faces shareholder lawsuits after its stock value plummented.Facebook says it was hoodwinked by Cambridge Analytica, the company that harvested data from millions of social media users on behalf of US President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
In a statement cited by US media late on Tuesday, the social media network said: “the entire company is outraged that we were deceived,” in a reference to the UK-based political research firm at the center of the scandal.
“We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens,” it continued.
Facebook said its top executives were “working around the clock to get all the facts,” after a whistleblower revealed how Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed the data of 50 million Facebook users to attempt to influence US voters.
Read more: Facebook bans Trump campaign data firm Cambridge Analytica
Embattled CEO steps aside
Hours earlier, Cambridge Analytica said it had suspended its CEO Alexander Nix, who was caught on camera boasting about how the data firm influenced Trump’s election win.
The data misuse scandal has heaped additional pressure on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has been called by the British and European parliaments to explain the misuse of its user data. A US consumer watchdog has also begun an investigation into the scandal.
The social media firm is already under fire for allowing fake news to proliferate on its platform during the US election campaign, and has repeatedly faced criticism over the privacy of its 2.1 billion regular users.
Read more: Fake news ’70 percent more likely to be shared’
Meanwhile, a Cambridge University psychology academic who designed the app that harvested the data used by the political consultancy said on Wednesday he hade been made a scapegoat.
Alexsandr Kogan told the BBC: “The events of the past week have been a total shell shock,” before adding that the accuracy of the dataset had been “exaggerated” and was more likely to have hurt Trump’s election campaign.
Kogan said he had no idea when carried out the work in 2014 that the data would be used to benefit the billionaire.
“We were assured by Cambridge Analytica that everything was perfectly legal and within the terms of service,” he said.
Facebook has accused Kogan of violating the site’s privacy policies by passing the data to the political research firm.
Read more: Kenyans debate Cambridge Analytica’s alleged involvement in 2017 elections
The lawsuits begin
Facebook’s shares have plummeted since the scandal unfolded, at times losing up to $50 billion (€41 billion) in value. Investors are concerned about the scandal’s long-term reputational damage, and whether social media networks may now face tougher regulation.
A San Francisco court on Tuesday saw the first of what could be numerous lawsuits from shareholders who say they have suffered losses due to the social media misleading them about its ability to protect user data.
There is also the potential for lawsuits on behalf of users whose personal information was revealed.
mm/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.