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Everything you need to know about the Cambridge Analytica controversy

Everything you need to know about the Cambridge Analytica controversy
From Mashable - March 18, 2018

Facebook is once again in hot water over the role its policies may have played in the election.

On Saturday, two explosive reports from The Guardian and The New York Times surfaced alleging that more than 50 million Facebook users had personal data used without their knowledge by Cambridge Analytica, a U.K.-based data firm employed by Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016.

The news quickly set off a firestorm on social media, where Facebook executives attempted to do damage control as a new backlash against the company ensued.

But what actually happened, and what Facebook's role in all of this was, is more than a little complicated. Here's what you need to know right now about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

What is Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica is a political data firm founded in 2013 as an offshoot of another British company called SCL Group. The company, which also has ties to Steve Bannon and Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer, specializes in something it called "psychographic profiling."

Essentially, the company scrapes data from a number of sourcessocial media, public records, consumer spending dataand uses that information to predict voting behavior. The firm works with campaigns and other political organizations to help them target key demographics based on their data.

In the United States, Cambridge Analytica is most known for its work with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election (prior to Trump, the company also worked with 2016 primary candidates Ted Cruz and Ben Carson). The company has credited its use of data with helping the Trump campaign take advantage of key demographic shifts, ultimately leading to an election win.

What did they do?

Facebook announced Friday it was suspending Cambridge Analytica from its platform, banning the company from buying ads or running its Facebook pages. At issue was the firm's use of ill-gotten user data.

Two subsequent reports in The New York Times and The Guardian revealed just how bad things were. According to the reports, which cited Cambridge Analytica cofounder Christopher Wylie, the firm acquired data pertaining to more than 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge, using the information to create its touted psychographic profiles.

Facebook found out in late 2015, and asked the company to destroy the data. The company said it did, and Facebook apparently left it at that until it got wind of this recent reporting from The Guardian and The New York Times, which alleges that the firm still has copies of the data. (Cambridge Analytica maintains it complied with Facebook's initial request and denies having used the data in question during the 2016 presidential campaign.)

How did they get all this Facebook data in the first place?

So how did 270,000 accounts turn into 50 million?

What happens now?

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