Cambridge Analytica researcher Alex Kogan suggested Monday that it’s unreasonable for Facebook to claim it had been blindsided by the harvesting of users’ information, as the process was merely an “open secret” among tech giants.
Kogan, who was the data scientist behind the collecting and selling of user information to Cambridge Analytica, told NBC’s “Today” that to harvest such private information from users was “business as usual.”
“I think what folks need to understand is this was business as usual as far as Facebook developers went,” said Kogan, who claims to have been vilified by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his testimony last week to Congress over the company’s privacy scandal.
According to NBC News, a quiz created by Kogan allegedly harvested the information of 87 million Facebook users and was then passed on to Cambridge Analytica, a data firm later hired by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Facebook has accused Kogan of unethical practices, claiming he breached its terms of services by alleging he was using the information for academic research purposes and then selling it outright.
However, Kogan has stated that he didn’t do anything wrong, adding that if he did, he would have never created such quiz in the first place that put himself in such a dubious situation.
“There are so many commercial entities out there, companies collecting vastly more data that don’t care about their relationship with Facebook, and Facebook has no accounting for that data whatsoever,” Kogan said.
“So trying to say, like, ‘Hey, Alex is this outlier,’ is stunning a little bit, until you realize it’s PR spin,” he added.
Kogan also said the attacks on him by Facebook executives are a distraction from the truth.
“In my opinion, it’s PR spin,” Kogan said after he was asked about accusations the tech giant made against him, including labeling him a “fraud” and a “liar.”
“They’re trying to distract people from realizing that what we did was the normal practice back then,” Kogan said. “A lot of other developers collected way more data.”
He also said his relationship with Facebook had been a close one and that he wouldn’t risk taking on a project that would upset the large corporation.
Kogan added that nearly all of Facebook users’ data has been collected at one point — if not multiple times — over the years, and that Facebook cannot trace exactly where that information goes.
Kogan is set to appear before Congress later this week, but the Cambridge Analytica researcher maintains that he followed every rule in place by Facebook when he collected and subsequently shared the personal information of millions of Facebook users.
However, Facebook maintains it had no part in the data sharing process, and that once it was discovered in December of 2015, the company worked to shut it down.
“We quickly shut down his app, demanded he delete all the information (which he confirmed in a signed statement he had) and ended any research work with him,” said Ime Archibong, who is Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships.
“In hindsight, we should have followed up to confirm he had deleted the information,” Archibong added. “As well as notified the people impacted — both of which are now happening.”
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