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Facebook data leak whistleblower warns that your private info may be stored in Russia

Published Apr 9th, 2018 9:32AM EDT
cambridge analytica facebook scandal

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It seems like every single day brings with it startling new revelations in the ongoing Facebook data leak scandal. With CEO Mark Zuckerberg preparing to testify before congress for two days week, the company would no doubt appreciate it if troubling new developments surrounding the Cambridge Analytica ordeal would stop dominating the news cycle for a bit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Among the biggest developments to this ongoing nightmare of a story is a troubling new revelation from the whistleblower who brought this troubling scandal to light in the first place. According to Christopher Wylie, the private data stolen from as many as 87 million Facebook users might currently be stored in Russia.

As a quick refresher, shady political consultancy Cambridge Analytica is the company that used a phony personality quiz and Facebook’s lax policies with users’ private data to harvest personal information belonging to up to 87 million Facebook users. At least that’s the number Facebook confirmed — according to Wylie, the actual figure “could be higher.” Armed with this data, the firm supposedly used information gleaned to help push people toward voting for Trump, who of course ultimately won the election. Of course, there’s no way to truly determine how much of an influence Cambridge Analytica had.

In an interview Sunday with NBC’s Meet the Press, former Cambridge Analytica data analyst Christopher Wylie added some more fuel to the fire. Wylie covered several troubling issues during the course of the 18-minute interview, but two claims stand out.

First, as we noted above, Wylie claims that the actual number of Facebook users whose data was harvested by Cambridge Analytica could actually higher than the 87 million figure Facebook has offered on several occasions. As we’ve noted before, every Facebook user at this point should just assume he or she may be affected. And regardless of whether or not one’s data may have been harvested in this instance, everyone should take measures immediately to protect, or better yet delete, his or her sensitive data from Facebook.

Wylie’s second troubling claim is that the private data harvested by Cambridge Analytica could currently be stored in Russia. Yes, the same Russia that continues to actively attack the United States after having tampered with the presidential election in 2016.

“There is a genuine risk that this data has been accessed by quite a few people, and that it could be stored in various parts of the world, including Russia, given the fact that the professor who was managing the data harvesting process was going back and forth between the UK and to Russia,” Wylie said during the interview.

The professor to which Wylie refers is Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge lecturer who played a role in collecting the data through the now-infamous Cambridge personality quiz. Kogan then shared that data with Cambridge Analytica, in direct violation of Facebook’s terms. Facebook learned of Kogan’s actions in 2015 and demanded that the harvested data be destroyed by all parties involved, but the company took no steps to inform the public. That clearly didn’t happen, and Cambridge Analytica was later hired by Trump’s presidential campaign ahead of the 2016 election.

Wylie’s full interview with Meet the Press can be watched below.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.