A data analysis firm employed by President Trump's 2016 campaign tapped the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, allowing it to capitalize on the private social media activity of a large portion of the US electorate, reports the AP. One of the largest data leaks in Facebook history let Cambridge Analytica, which had ties to Trump strategist Steve Bannon, to develop techniques that formed the basis of its work on the campaign, the New York Times and the Guardian reported. Facebook said it suspended Cambridge Analytica over allegations it kept the improperly obtained user data after telling Facebook it had been deleted. In a blog post, Facebook explained that Cambridge Analytica had years ago received user data from a Facebook app that purported to be a psychological research tool, though the firm was not authorized. Roughly 270,000 people downloaded and shared details with the app.
Cambridge Analytica certified in 2015 that it had destroyed the information, although Facebook received reports "several days ago" that not all data was deleted. Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica's parent company, Strategic Communication Laboratories; University of Cambridge psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan, who created the app; and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, who also allegedly received user data. Wylie is a former Cambridge Analytics employee who is a primary source for the Times report. Trump's campaign denied using the firm's data, saying it relied on the RNC for its data. Cambridge Analytica is backed by billionaire donor Robert Mercer. The firm had wooed Bannon with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence behavior, but lacked data to make its products work. It has surfaced in US probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, disclosed an advisory role with Cambridge Analytica in August.