- Facebook was warned about issues with Cambridge Analytica months before the first reports in 2015.
- A court filing reveals that an employee was raising red flags internally back in September 2015.
- Facebook says it hasn’t “misled” anyone about the timeline of the scandal and that this refers to a separate incident.
- As such, it raises questions as to why Facebook didn’t previously disclose it.
Facebook employees had been warned about allegations that Cambridge Analytica was misusing users’ data from the social network months earlier than previously disclosed.
A court filing from the Washington DC attorney general made public this week said that a Facebook employee had raised issues about the political research firm in September 2015 — months before The Guardian’s first report on it, in December 2015. (The exact nature of the DC-based employee’s warning is unknown, as the legal filing is currently redacted.)
The revelation is significant because Facebook has previously said that its leadership was not aware of the issues surrounding Cambridge Analytica prior to the initial December report. Cambridge Analytica had purchased tens of millions of users’ data from a researcher for its political purposes, and following the 2015 report it was asked by Facebook to delete it.
The issue then erupted into an international scandal for Facebook in March 2018, following a subsequent report from The Guardian about how the data was not deleted, and used to target American voters.
A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment, but in a statement to The Guardian published Friday it denied that it had “misled anyone about this timeline.”
Instead, the company said, the issues that were raised by an employee back in September 2015 were a “different incident” to the issues that were subsequently reported.
“In September 2015 employees heard speculation that Cambridge Analytica was scraping data, something that is unfortunately common for any internet service. In December 2015, we first learned through media reports that [researcher Aleksandr] Kogan sold data to Cambridge Analytica, and we took action. Those were two different things,” the spokesperson said.
They added: “Facebook was not aware of the transfer of data from Kogan/GSR to Cambridge Analytica until December 2015, as we have testified under oath.”
Facebook’s statement means that, even if it didn’t mislead lawmakers about when it became aware of the specific Cambridge Analytica scandal that has rocked the company over the past year, red flags were being raised internally about the firm months prior to those reports, and that Facebook failed to take action or subsequently disclose this publicly.
Damian Collins, a British MP and outspoken critic of Facebook, tweeted: “This important new information could suggest that Facebook has consistently mislead the [Parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee] about what it knew and when about Cambridge Analytica.”
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