In an ominous move, Facebook has announced via a press release that they have suspended the account of Cambridge Analytica, the data mining and analysis business touted (by itself) as being pivotal in the success of the Trump campaign.
Cambridge Analytica has already been in trouble with Facebook for breaching its terms of service. An app created by the business actively collected user data such which was then sold to third parties, a practice which was deemed to be a flagrant disregard for privacy rules. At the time, Facebook suspended their account and removed the app from the app store. They also required evidence that all customer information had been deleted. Case closed.
The latest suspension is connected to the first. Facebook now says that they have received information from as yet unnamed sources that Cambridge Analytica didn’t delete all user information and has continued to use it as part of its data analysis process for right-wing politicians, including Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, and international corporations.
But this isn’t what is most concerning. The issue is that Facebook has made a very public declaration of the suspension, the reasons for suspending and – most critically – the part they played throughout the entire process. They are telling the world that Cambridge Analytica has done something bad, and that Facebook did everything it could to stop it from happening.
“This isn’t our fault; we’re as much a victim as everyone else.”
No doubt following this announcement, federal agencies will get very interested as to what Facebook knows and precisely what Cambridge Analytica did. We may discover that not only was the business breaching Facebook’s terms of use, but also leaning pretty hard on the laws that govern the collection of data as it relates to individuals.
No doubt the White House – who have already said that Cambridge Analytica’s impact on the Trump campaign was minimal – will watch this saga carefully, and hope that it goes away quietly.