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Facebook knew about Cambridge Analytica data breach a year before Trump election

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company knew the data firm was mishandling its users' data long before the scandal became public

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 06 April 2018 15:53 BST
Mark Zuckerberg admits ‘my mistake’ as 87m Facebook users could have seen data accessed by Cambridge Analytica

Facebook was aware that Cambridge Analytica was mishandling its users’ data long before both President Trump’s election campaign and the Brexit referendum, an executive at the firm revealed.

Sheryl Sandberg, who has served as Facebook’s COO for the last decade, told NBC’s Today show that the company knew about the data firm harvesting personal information two-and-a-half years ago but did not properly prevent it from being abused.

“We thought it had been deleted because they gave us assurances,” Ms Sandberg said. “But what we didn’t do was the next step of an audit and we’re trying to do that now.

“We could have done this two-and-a-half years ago [but] we thought the data had been deleted and we should have checked.”

Data gathered by Cambridge Analytica was used to target Facebook users with political propaganda during both the 2016 US presidential elections and the UK’s referendum to leave the EU that same year.

Facebook revealed this week that the data of up to 87 million of its users was exploited, while more than half of its 2.2 billion users have had their personal information compromised by “malicious actors” at some point.

It was also revealed this week that Facebook planned to collect medical data from patients in US hospitals as part of a proposed research project.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to appear before Congress next week to face questions surrounding consumer data.

Ms Sandberg said during her interview that the only way Facebook could offer its users an option to opt out of data-based advertising would be if the user paid for it, though no such subscription-type model currently exists.

“We have different forms of opt out,” she said. “We don’t have an opt out at the highest level, that would be a paid product.”

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