Congress is ratcheting up political pressure on Facebook after reports that a political data analytics firm employed by President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign received personal data and information from up to 50 million profiles on the popular social networking site.
“These tech platforms .... need to be more forthcoming or Washington is going to start imposing rules and regulations that may not fit,” he warned.
On Saturday, The New York Times and The Observer of London reported that the data firm, Cambridge Analytica, mined data from millions of Facebook users -- largely without permission -- through an app created by a Russian-American psychologist, with the goal of using the data to create voter profiles and craft political messages.
Facebook did not publicly acknowledge the possible data breach until the report surfaced over the weekend, and did not notify users that their information had been obtained by a third party.
Cambridge Analytica has denied improperly obtaining any data, said they destroyed the unauthorized data as soon as they learned of it and said none of the information was used in its work 2016 presidential campaign work.
On Monday, Facebook announced that it had hired a digital forensics firm, Stroz Friedberg, to audit Cambridge Analytica and sweep the firm’s servers and systems to confirm that the tranche of Facebook data had been destroyed after acknowledging reports that the data may still exist.
“We are moving aggressively to determine the accuracy of these claims. We remain committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information,” the company said in a statement.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has invited Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica contractor who first spoke with The Times and The Observer, to appear for an interview with his staff. He said Democrats have also invited the Russian-American researcher Alexandr Kogan, to appear for an interview.
“We need to bring [Nix] back. I also think we need to bring in the other witnesses from Cambridge Analytica that we had asked the majority to previously [agree to],” Schiff said, referencing Democrats’ calls for interviews with other Cambridge Analytica executives and GOP donor Rebekah Mercer, whose father Robert helped create the political data firm.
Lawmakers, including Warner and Klobuchar, have called for tighter regulations of online political ads and greater disclosure requirements, which Facebook and other tech companies have resisted.