29 Mar DEFAMATION – ACADEMIC SUES FACEBOOK OVER CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA ALLEGATIONS
A former Cambridge University researcher has launched a defamation claim against Facebook, over what he says are the company’s efforts to make him a scapegoat for their approach to the collection of personal data used by disgraced political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Aleksandr Kogan devised an online quiz to collect the data and has said that the fine print accompanying his app said the information could be used commercially.
Crucially, the quiz harvested data not only from those who took it, but also from their Facebook friends, and up to 87 million Facebook users were affected.
In the wake of revelations in 2018 regarding Cambridge Analytica’s use of the data he collected, Facebook executives including Mark Zuckerberg said they had been misled by Kogan and claimed he told them the data was for academic purposes, when it was being collected for use in political campaigns.
Their efforts to pin the blame for the harvesting of users’ personal data on Kogan are now the subject of his defamation claim.
Kogan has insisted since the story broke that he was being made a scapegoat, and he now says that the company defamed him when it claimed he had lied about how the data was going to be used.
“Alex did not lie, Alex was not a fraud, Alex did not deceive them, this was not a scam,” said Steve Cohen, a lawyer for Mr. Kogan. “Facebook knew exactly what this app was doing, or should have known. Facebook desperately needed a scapegoat, and Alex was their scapegoat.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Facebook said Kogan’s case was a “a frivolous lawsuit from someone who recklessly violated our policies and put people’s data at risk”.
The data was collected in 2014, at a time when Facebook allowed app developers wide ranging access to users’ information.
Cambridge Analytica, which hired Kogan as a contractor, used the data for political purposes, including in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and during the Brexit referendum.
The revelation in 2018 of the way in which the data had been obtained and used by whistle-blower Christopher Wylie provoked a public relations and legal crisis for Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg was compelled to give evidence to Congress and the company is now facing investigations by regulators and federal prosecutors in the United States.
Kogan’s legal claim is only the latest in what appears to be an ongoing crisis surrounding Facebook’s approach to personal data and privacy.