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Russia got access to Facebook users’ data via Cambridge Analytica, report says

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Nikolsky Alexei/TASS/Zuma Press/TNS)
July 23, 2018

Analyst have discovered that Facebook data on tens of millions of Americans that was gathered by a Cambridge University scientist for Cambridge Analytica was accessed by a Russian company.

Facebook has been facing controversy after it was revealed that an app on their platform collected data from a significant portion of its users.

Researchers, including Damian Collins, who made the discovery, are now trying to determine if Russia actually used any of the Facebook data that it allegedly accessed.

“I think what we want to know now is who were those people and what access did they have, and were they actually able to take some of that data themselves and use it for whatever things they wanted,” Collins said.

Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology professor at Cambridge University who assisted Cambridge Analytica in collecting the data, was also a professor at St. Petersburg State University and had made several visits to Russia during the last few years.

Kogan claims that he visited Russia in May 2014, before he was collecting data with Cambridge Analytica, and then again visited the country in April 2016. But most of the Facebook data had already been deleted at that point. In addition, he has denied giving any data to any Russian entities, but admits that it’s possible that someone in Russia could have accessed the data from his computer without him knowing.

“On my side, I am not aware of any Russian entity with access to my data. I don’t know what could have happened to the data once I handed it over to Cambridge Analytica, so it is difficult for me to speculate,” Kogan said.

The professor then mentioned that he couldn’t comment further until knowing more on the situation, BuzzFeed reported.

“This could be really innocuous, it could be as simple as an SCL (Cambridge Analytica’s British parent company) representative was in Russia and they remotely accessed the server to see some of the files. It could have nothing to do with the Russian authorities, it could just be someone checking their mailbox,” he said.

Collins wasn’t able to specifically say what data was accessed and how it was obtained, but he mentioned that it could have been used to help Russians with Facebook ad targeting.

“There will be a lot of interest now to see to what extent were people in Russia benefiting from the work Kogan was doing with his colleagues in Cambridge in the U.K. So is it possible, indirectly, that the Russians learned from Cambridge Analytica, and used that knowledge to run ads in America during the Presidential election, as well,” he added.