Facebook suspends former Cambridge Analytica contractor

Posted at 8:40 AM, Mar 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-19 08:40:11-04

(CNN Money) — Facebook has suspended former Cambridge Analytica contractor Christopher Wylie from using its platform.

“Suspended by Facebook. For blowing the whistle. On something they have known privately for two years,” Wylie tweeted on Sunday.

It is the latest twist in a complicated story that has played out over the last few days via statements from Facebook, an investigative report by The New York Times and London’s The Observer, and revelations from the people involved.

Wylie was a data analyst for Cambridge Analytica, the controversial data firm that worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He shared evidence of the company’s activities with the two newspapers, as well as reportedly with cybercrime investigators in the United Kingdom. Over the weekend, he also spoke on British television about how the company was reportedly able to harvest data from 50 million users.

Getting that data “allowed us to move into the hearts and minds of American voters in a way that had never been done before,” Wylie said in an interview with the UK’s Channel 4 on Saturday.

Wylie tweeted Monday that his account on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, had also been suspended.

Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica from its platform on Friday, saying in a blog post that the company had learned in 2015 that user data was shared with a political data group in violation of Facebook’s terms. Facebook said they received certifications at the time that all copies of the data had been destroyed.

In a statement, Cambridge Analytica maintains “that all Facebook data and their derivatives” was deleted. It also says it did not use any of that data in its work for Trump’s campaign.

The revelations prompted renewed scrutiny of how Facebook was used to reach and influence voters ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.

Under fire from politicians in the United States and the United Kingdom, Facebook said on Sunday afternoon it was conducting an internal and external review to determine if Facebook data provided to Cambridge Analytica still existed.

The New York Times reported that Cambridge Analytica still possesses most or all of the data, according to interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors.

Facebook acknowledged in the blog post it has “received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted.”

The fallout from the reports is ongoing, and for now, Facebook will be conducting its review without Wylie’s help.

“Mr. Wylie has refused to cooperate with us until we lift the suspension on his account,” Paul Grewal, a lawyer for Facebook, said in a statement provided to CNN Sunday. “Given he said he ‘exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles,’ we cannot do this at this time.”