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Facebook suspends whistleblower's account after report

Facebook says the suspension is due to reports Christopher Wylie's former employer allegedly held onto 50 million Facebook profiles' worth of information.

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Christopher Wylie's personal Facebook account has been turned off over reports that his former employer held onto Facebook profile data.

@chrisinsilico/Twitter

Data analyst Christopher Wylie says his personal Facebook account has been suspended following reports where he detailed how his former employer, Cambridge Analytica, allegedly used misappropriated Facebook user data to target people.

Wylie, who gave "whistleblower" reports published Saturday by The Observer and the New York Times detailing how 50 million Facebook profiles were affected, announced the suspension Sunday in a tweet.

Facebook said Sunday the suspension is the same as the one the company levied Friday against Cambridge Analytica and related parties such as Wylie for reportedly using private data that was collected by a personality quiz app. While users had to opt in to share their personal information with that app, they did not opt into having that information shared with Cambridge Analytica, a firm that worked on the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign.

Facebook asked the firm to delete the information in 2015 when it was discovered the data had been passed on, and Cambridge Analytica maintains that it did. However, Wylie's claim that it did not would be violation of that trust if true.

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Wylie's attorney, Tamsin Allen, told CNET sister site CBS News that Facebook "privately welcomed" his assistance on the issue before the suspension took place, which Facebook announced on Friday. However, Facebook says that Wylie is refusing to help with the issue until his suspension is lifted.

"Mr. Wylie has refused to cooperate with us until we lift the suspension on his account. Given he said he "exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles," we cannot do this at this time," Paul Grewal, Facebook vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a statement.

Andrew Bosworth, a top executive at Facebook who used to run the company's ads business, also weighed in on the suspension on Monday. "Any user who admits breaking our terms of service is going to be removed. This was egregious, he wrote on his Facebook page. "We're asking him to cooperate with our investigation. So far he has refused."

I wanted to share more information about the news this weekend around Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. I spent the...

Posted by Boz on Monday, March 19, 2018

Wylie, who left Cambridge Analytica in late 2014, told The Observer that his former employer made use of the personal data in an effort that cost $1 million.

"[We] built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on," Wylie said in the Saturday report.

CNET's Richard Nieva contributed to this report.

Updated, 2:22 p.m. PT: Adds statement from Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth on Wylie suspension. 

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