Cambridge Analytica, a data firm tied to President Trump's presidential campaign, has been accused of harvesting the user data of millions of people to influence elections. Facebook announced it was suspending the company late Friday, saying the measure was in response to the data firm improperly storing the user data of 270,000 people for years after promising to delete it. On Saturday, however, sources cited by The New York Times said the suspension went far beyond simple policy violations, with the data firm accused of stealing the personal information of at least 50 million Facebook users with the goal of influencing elections. The personal data was reportedly obtained under the guise of a personality-prediction app by Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan, who is accused of conspiring with Cambridge Analytica to unlawfully glean users' information and build psychological profiles. The data analysis company has faced increasing scrutiny in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe for its work with President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Facebook has also come under fire for its role in allowing Russian ads to flourish during the election, and some questioned why the social media giant took so long to take action against Cambridge Analytica. Sen. Mark Warner told The Daily Beast the latest accusations are “more evidence that the online political advertising market is essentially the Wild West.” “Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it's clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency,” he said.
--with reporting by Spencer Ackerman