New questions for Facebook about when data harvesting took place


Facebook is confronted with explosive new questions about when senior executives knew about the abuse of user data by Cambridge Analytica, one year after the scandal broke for the first time, because federal prosecutors claim the social media giant has the extent of its relationship with the media has covered firm.

The Observer has also learned that a meeting took place at the office of Facebook board member and confidant of his CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower of Cambridge Analytica, in the summer of 2016, just as the data platform started working for the Trump campaign.

Facebook has repeatedly refused to say when its senior executives, including Zuckerberg, heard of how Cambridge Analytica had used harvested data from millions of people around the world to target them with political messages without their permission. But Silicon Valley insiders have told Observer that Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, the founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley, attended a meeting with Wylie two years before coming to the whistleblower in the office of Andreessen Horowitz.

It marks the end of one of the worst weeks in Facebook's history. News from more criminal investigations and senior executives who left the company was crowned by the shocking revelation on Friday that a shooter who murdered 49 people at a prayer in New Zealand livestreamed the massacre on Facebook. In the hours that followed, Facebook and Google didn't stop making the images viral with hundreds of thousands of people watching the video.

But the ObserverThe revelations about Facebook open up a new perspective on the year-long scandal and raise questions that go to the level of management.

People attending the meeting with Wylie and Andreessen claim that it was set up to learn what Cambridge Analytica was doing with Facebook data and how technologists could work to "fix" it. It is unclear in what capacity Andreesen Horowitz hosted and who saddled the meeting, but it is nevertheless a hugely embarrassing revelation for Facebook, which was revealed last week to be the subject of a criminal investigation into the extent to which it was involved in Cambridge Analytica.

Important events in line above the company for analysis of political data

December 2015

First hint of the scandal

The Guardian reports that Cambridge Analytica political data firm helped Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, suggesting that the Republican candidate used psychological data based on research on tens of millions of Facebook users in an effort to gain an advantage over his political rivals

June 2016

Firm works with Trump campaign

Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm of which Steve Bannon is vice president, is starting to work with Facebook and Google collaborators with Brad Parscale in the Trump campaign, in San Antonio. Two months later, Donald Trump dismisses Paul Manafort as his campaign leader and appoints Bannon. The campaign spends $ 6 million on Cambridge Analytica services

March 17, 2018

Wylie reveals the harvest

Christopher Wylie, co-founder of Cambridge Analytica, claims in the Observer and the Grouvy Today that the company used 50 million Facebook profiles harvested in a major data scandal. This number was later revised by Facebook to 87 million. Wylie claimed that the data sold to Cambridge Analytica was then used to create & # 39; psychographic & # 39; develop profiles of people and deliver pro-Trump material online to them

March 21, 2018

Zuckerberg apologizes

After four days of refusing to comment, Mark Zuckerberg publishes a message on Facebook in which he apologizes for the data breach. Responding to the ongoing consequences of the data scandal, the Facebook CEO says, "We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if that fails, we don't deserve to be of service to you. What happened and how you can do it make this happen no more "

March 25, 2018

The & # 39; sorry & # 39; ads

Zuckerberg hits full-page ads in a number of British and American newspapers to apologize for a "breach of trust"

April 25, 2018

Facebook revenues are rising

Facebook publishes its first income report since the scandal was reported. The quarterly turnover was the highest for a first quarter and the second highest in general

May 2018

Investigations launched

Wylie appears before the US Congress to answer questions about the scandal.

Cambridge Analytica goes into administration. Days later it is reported that the FBI and the US Department of Justice are investigating the company

July 2017

Facebook fined

The British Information Commissioner & # 39; s Office announces that Facebook wants to pay £ 500,000 ($ 663,000) for the data scandal, saying Facebook has "broken the law by not protecting people's information".

$ 119 billion will be sold off Facebook's stock value when Zuckerberg announces that a large number of users are leaving the platform

November 2018

& # 39; Empty seat & # 39;

After having refused several invitations to appear in the UK parliamentary inquiry into fake news, Mark Zuckerberg is "presided over" at a special committee meeting of members from nine national parliaments

March 2019

Criminal investigation

Reportedly, the US Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation into data sharing with other technology companies

Federal prosecutors in the northern district of California are investigating Facebook's claims that they were unaware of Cambridge Analytica's misuse of Facebook data until it was told by a Guardian reporter, the Grouvy Today reported on Friday. "We work with researchers and take these probes seriously," a Facebook spokesperson told the Grouvy Today.

Andreessen is one of the most influential figures in Silicon Valley and was an early investor on Facebook. During the period in 2016 when Facebook said it was investigating data usage by Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie was invited to a meeting at the office, Andreessen Horowitz.

Wylie, the young Canadian data scientist, would scandal in the Observer a year ago. He then revealed how Cambridge Analytica worked with a Cambridge academic university, Aleksandr Kogan, to harvest Facebook data from users, without their permission, to model their personalities and target them politically.

A Silicon Valley technician with knowledge of the Andreessen Horowitz meeting said, "There were people who were very concerned about the reports of what Cambridge Analytica did with data, and the meeting was set up to try and learn so much about the exploit to find possible solutions. That's why Wylie was invited. They wanted his knowledge. He got many questions, including about the company's contacts with Russian entities. "

It is clear that a Facebook group was formed, of which Wylie was a member, and it is assumed that Andreessen kept in touch with Wylie until the Observer broke the story of his involvement in March last year.

A Valley insider who attended the meeting said, "The weird thing is that there was no follow-up. The idea was to reverse-engineer the problem to find solutions. But we never heard of a follow-up with the Facebook security team or an attempt to put the information into action. "

Andreessen Horowitz refused to answer one of the ObserverAsk. Facebook has repeatedly refused to tell members of Congress and the British parliamentary fake news investigation when senior executives heard of the misuse of data. It also refused to ObserverAsk.

After the publication of this article, Marc Andreessen issued the following statement: "The suggestion that I had or had organized a meeting with Christopher Wylie is blunt and completely untrue. I have never met Wylie in my life. After the 2016 elections a mutual colleague suggested by email that I would meet Wylie, but that meeting never took place. Later, in early 2018, Wylie stretched me out on Twitter and asked for a meeting that I rejected. "

The company added that it had "no report" of a meeting in its office.

A spokesman said: "Facebook was unaware of the transfer of data from Kogan / GSR [Kogan’s business Global Science Research] until December 2015 at Cambridge Analytica. When Facebook learned that Kogan had violated Facebook's data usage policy, we took action. "

In another twist, Kogan told it Grouvy Today on Friday that he plans to sue Facebook for defamation for claiming he misled the company about how he wanted to use the data. A Facebook spokesperson described the lawsuit as "light-hearted."

Damian Collins, the president of parliament's fake news research, said, "Facebook refused to say which executives knew what, when. They never explained whether the data was destroyed or where it went.

"Last year, based on the story, it said it started an internal investigation into what other developers had access to data, including companies like Palantir. And it never reported. It's hard not to be suspicious about why it's so evasive "

David Carroll, an American professor who chased Cambridge Analytica through the courts because he didn't tell what personal information he had about him, said it was crucial to know who knew when. "Why is Facebook veiled?" He said. "We know that Facebook was in service before the start of the visit from Joseph Chancellor, Kogan & # 39; s business partner Guardian first report. It defies belief that nobody knew anything. The answers that Zuckerberg gave Congress under oath are unbelieving. It's incredible that a year later and we still don't know these basic facts. "

Carroll & # 39; s own ongoing struggle with Cambridge Analytica reaches a critical point tomorrow. He heads the court against Cambridge Analytica managers to resist the liquidation of the companies. Carroll is concerned about how far the directors concealed the true nature of their relationship with Emerdata, the company's successor, and the true purpose of the attempt to liquidate the company. "They've done everything to prevent me from giving me my information. It's exactly the same as Facebook is doing. They seem desperate to prevent the truth from coming out." The administrators dispute the allegations and moves continue their efforts to liquidate and resist Professor Carroll's attempt to remove them.

Ravi Naik, Carroll's lawyer, who won the Law Society's Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award for his work on the case, said it was an important moment in his struggle to find out the truth about what data Cambridge Analytica had.

"Facebook has tried to avoid the truth through these evasive responses to lawmakers. And Cambridge Analytica has tried to do it through insolvency. We know there was a completely toxic data nut that was used to get people into politics, but we know still nothing about where that data came from and how it was used. We're still completely in the dark. This is an attempt to break that vault. "