A Cambridge Analytica symbol is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone against a backdrop of the Facebook Inc. sign shown on a computer screen in this arranged photograph in London, U.K. (Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg)

Facebook Says EU Data Unlikely Shared With Cambridge Analytica

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. said private data about its European users may not have fallen into the hands of Cambridge Analytica after all, as the social network continues to fend off criticism about a scandal that sparked global outrage.

“The best information we have suggests that no European user data was shared by Dr. [Aleksandr] Kogan with Cambridge Analytica,” Stephen Satterfield, a privacy policy director at Facebook, told European Union lawmakers at a hearing on Monday.

Kogan is the researcher who collected users’ information and subsequently sold it to the consulting firm working on Donald Trump’s 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Facebook said it wouldn’t be able to make any firm conclusions on the matter until it conducts its own audit, which it plans for after it gets the go-ahead from the U.K.’s privacy watchdog currently conducting its own probe. The social network said its preliminary conclusion is based on testimony by Kogan, as well as contracts that his company, GSR, had with Cambridge Analytica, along with its own internal analysis.

Explaining the evidence that led to the company’s conclusion, Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president of policy solutions, said Kogan’s contract with Cambridge Analytica instructed the researcher to collect the data of Americans to use in U.S. political campaigns. While almost all of the people who installed Kogan’s app were Americans, Kogan may still have collected European data, Allan said.

"But the data he delivered to Cambridge Analytica were the Americans’ data because that’s all they wanted," Allan said.

The U.S. tech giant previously told the EU that the data of as many as 2.7 million Europeans might have been shared with Cambridge Analytica. The company has previously notified users whose data was potentially accessed by Kogan’s app -- even if their data might not have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

‘Contradiction’

“I have to say I was a bit surprised by the statements,” Ursula Pachl, deputy director-general of European consumer group BEUC told the parliament. “This is a contradiction, I don’t know how it can be explained."

The EU’s top privacy regulator also chided the company for its apparent flip-flopping.

“What really is concerning is that there are revelations and then Facebook admits having shared data of users and even non-users, and after each revelation, they admit another thing,” Andrea Jelinek, who is leading the authorities in charge of policing EU data privacy law, told the Parliament’s civil liberties committee Monday in Brussels.

“It is like a puzzle, and we don’t know how many pieces are in there and how many are still missing,” she said.

It’s the second hearing in a series of in-depth events planned by lawmakers to dig into how information concerning as many as 87 million people ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica. A third hearing is scheduled for July 2, with an invitation for Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg to attend.

The hearings come a month after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg traveled to Brussels to be grilled by EU lawmakers, but he left them frustrated over unanswered questions during the meeting. The company has since been posting its responses online, in batches, to all the questions from the session.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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