The screen on an Apple Inc. iPhone displays the word ‘Data ?’ against a backdrop of the Facebook Inc. logo displayed on a computer screen in this arranged photograph in London, U.K. (Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg ) 

Cambridge University Researcher Lays Out Links With Facebook

(Bloomberg) -- Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher who shared Facebook Inc. user data with Cambridge Analytica, has said that a supply of anonymized user information he received from the social network came with no contract and no obligation to destroy it.

"It was just ‘here’s an email, here’s a data set’," Kogan told U.K lawmakers Tuesday as part of a U.K. inquiry into fake news.

Kogan said that in 2013 the social network provided him and his research students with anonymized user data, and that his eventual research he conducted was not particularly accurate.

"The data we collected as a lab was never sold," he said. "That would be a very serious break of ethics. That data never left my servers and was exclusively used by my PhD students."

He said that only when he was approached by Cambridge Analytica parent company SCL did he create a commercial entity to collect new data. Along with Joseph Chancellor, a fellow researcher who now works at Facebook, Kogan formed a company at Cambridge that built the personality survey app that gathered the data eventually sold to Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Facebook has been under pressure since the revelations that vast swathes of data were held by British firm Cambridge Analytica, after it was obtained from Kogan without the social network’s permission. The researcher, who has said he is being used as a "scapegoat," was able to get information on as many as 87 million people from 270,000 users who downloaded a Facebook app he had built.

Kogan is the latest character in the Cambridge Analytica saga to give evidence to lawmakers around the world. During his U.S. congressional testimony earlier this month, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said his company was questioning “whether there was something bad going on at Cambridge University overall that will require a stronger reaction from us.” He said that the social-media giant had now discovered “a whole program” associated with the school, in which people built apps that vacuumed up the data of its users and their friends.

The university refuted the accusations and said its researchers "have been publishing such research since 2013 in peer-reviewed scientific journals and these studies have been reported widely in international media.” It also said that Facebook had contact with the researchers themselves in 2013.

Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer will give evidence to U.K. lawmakers in late April.

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