Not all the Cambridge Analytica data from Facebook was deleted, investigation finds

CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, gestures during the Web Summit, Europe's biggest tech conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, November 9, 2017.

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CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, gestures during the Web Summit, Europe’s biggest tech conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, November 9, 2017.
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Pedro Nunes/Reuters

  • A Channel 4 investigation has found that not all the data obtained from Facebook by political research firm Cambridge Analytica was deleted.
  • Cambridge Analytica acquired 50 million Facebook users’ data in 2015.
  • It said it subsequently deleted it, but Channel 4’s new report raises questions as to who had access to the data.

Not all of the Facebook data obtained by Cambridge Analytica has actually been deleted, according to a new report from Channel 4 News.

The political research company has been at the centre of a political firestorm this month after it was revealed that it had acquired the personal data of around 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent. The firm is now under investigation and has been banned from Facebook, as the social network also faces intense scrutiny over its privacy practices.

Cambridge Analytica has said that all the data has been deleted, and that it will undergo a third-party audit to prove it.

But the British news outlet Channel 4 says it was able to obtain a dataset containing info including psychological profiles on 136,000 people from Colorado, USA, which was reportedly “derived” from the original Facebook data that Cambridge Analytica held.

It’s not clear who exactly was in possession of the data – Channel 4 cites only an unnamed “Cambridge Analytica source.” But the fact it still exists raises questions over who had access to the data, what steps Cambridge Analytica took to ensure it had all been destroyed, and whether Cambridge Analytica knew that some of it was still available.

One Colorado resident told Channel 4 after being told about the data: “It’s a manipulation of our society by people who don’t really care about our society. They care about their business. They care about their bottom line and they aren’t here for all of us, other than they want to manipulate all of us because we’re either a voter or a consumer. And that’s how they look at me, they don’t look at how safe I am, or how good my schools are.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic are now calling on executives at both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to testify about the incident. Channel 4 also previously caught Cambridge Analytica execs appearing to say on camera that they could entrap political candidates with sex workers and bribes.

Spokespeople for Cambridge Analytica and Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.

A spokesperson for the political firm told Channel 4: “We have never passed any data from GSR to an external party. After Facebook contacted us in December 2015 we deleted all GSR data and took appropriate steps to ensure that any copies of the data were deleted. This includes our lawyers taking action in late 2014 against a number of former staff members who had stolen data and intellectual property from the company. These former staff members each signed an undertaking promising that they had deleted all such material. It is untrue that we failed to take appropriate measures to ensure that GSR data were deleted.”