A data analysis firm employed by President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign tapped the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, allowing it to capitalize on the private social media activity of a large portion of the USA electorate, newspapers reported Saturday.
Arguing that Strategic Communication Laboratories, particularly its subsidiary Cambridge Analytica and some others, violated agreement terms, Facebook says the disbarment is necessary in its attempts to ensure people's information is protected and user data isn't being manipulated.
In a statement sent to Fortune, Cambridge Analytica claimed it had contracted Kogan and his company, Global Science Research, to obtain data only in line with Facebook's rules.
Facebook Inc's deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal, said the data had been collected through a personality prediction app called "thisisyourdigitallife".
"The lid is being opened on the black box of Facebook's data practices, and the picture is not pretty", said Frank Pasquale, a University of Maryland law professor who has written about Silicon Valley's use of data.
After speaking with the U.K. Information Commissioner's Office, which promotes the protection of private information, Cadwalladr said it is clear 'this is a data breach'.
Some 270,000 people allowed use of their data by a researcher, who scraped the data of all their friends as well, a move allowed by Facebook until 2015.
It seems that Facebook allowed Kogan's app to collect data on friends, and based on features such as "likes", because it comported with their efforts to cultivate an environment of increased engagement.
Though both companies have been embroiled in investigations in Washington and London for months, this weekend's demands have taken on a more personal tone, focusing explicitly on Zuckerberg, who has not testified publicly on these matters in either nation.
Facebook also told CNN on Sunday that it was seeking information on ties between one of its employees, Joseph Chancellor, and Cambridge Analytica.
Moreover, she found it puzzling that Facebook knew about the abuse in 2015 but did not disclose it until Friday.
But Cambridge Analytica did not have the data to make its new products work.
In a statement Saturday, Facebook said, "We reject any suggestion of violation of the consent decree".
Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix was previously questioned by British politicians on his company's role in Brexit at the Trump campaign.
On its website, Cambridge Analytica says it "provided the Donald J Trump for President campaign with the expertise and insights that helped win the White House".
"The more I read about Cambridge Analytica, the more I think it might be time to cancel my Facebook account", actor-comedian Jeff Cannata said on Twitter.
Acknowledging an episode as a data breach can carry legal significance, as companies face a patchwork of state and federal requirements to notify customers and regulators when they detect that information has been compromised.
Thickening the entanglement for Facebook is the fact that Cambridge Analytica, which has ties to high-profile Trump backers, has been under scrutiny by Justice Department investigator Robert Mueller during his investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. "Of course, they won't because discovery would show exactly how ruthless Facebook is when it comes to partners & how they treat their users".
Kogan was reportedly able to create more than 50 million profiles using the trend and characteristics data before providing them to Cambridge.