Cambridge Analytica again says no Facebook data used in US election

In a lengthy statement, acting CEO Alexander Tayler says he wants to make that point "absolutely clear."

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Cambridge Analytica's acting CEO reiterated Friday that the company didn't use Facebook data it received through a third-party research agency in its work with the Trump campaign during the election.

"Please can I be absolutely clear," Alexander Tayler said in a statement on the company's site, "we did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election."

Cambridge Analytica is at the heart of a scandal that's stirred up two national governments and the world's largest social network. Last Friday, reports by The New York Times and the Britian's Guardian and Observer newspapers said the UK-based data consultancy obtained data about millions of Facebook users through methods that violated Facebook's policies.

The company is accused of holding on to the data after Facebook asked it to delete the files, and then using the information to socially engineer public opinion of the UK's Brexit referendum and to manipulate US voters in the 2016 presidential campaign. GSR refers to the research company that initially obtained the data and then went against Facebook's rules by sharing the info with Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica said at the time that it hadn't used the data in its work with Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Tayler's statement today repeats that assertion. Tayler, who'd been Cambridge Analytica's chief data officer, was made acting CEO on Tuesday after the company's board suspended Alexander Nix. The suspension followed the release of undercover footage showing Nix discussing political dirty tricks and boasting about Cambridge Analytica's role in Trump's campaign.

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The lengthy message posted to Cambridge Analytica's website details the company's actions at the time, and what it's doing now to prove it did indeed delete the data.

Here's Cambridge Analytica acting CEO Alexander Tayler's message in full:

As a data scientist I deeply believe in fairness and transparency in the way data is collected and processed. I am sorry that in 2014 SCL Elections (an affiliate of Cambridge Analytica) licensed Facebook data and derivatives from a research company (GSR) that had not received consent from most respondents. The company believed that the data had been obtained in line with Facebook's terms of service and data protection laws.

I became Chief Data Officer for Cambridge Analytica in October 2015. Shortly after, Facebook requested that we delete the data. We immediately deleted the raw data from our file server, and began the process of searching for and removing any of its derivatives in our system. When Facebook sought further assurances a year ago, we carried out an internal audit to make sure that all the data, all derivatives and backups had been deleted, and gave Facebook a certificate to this effect. Please can I be absolutely clear: we did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election. 

We are now undertaking an independent third-party audit to verify that we do not hold any GSR data. We have been in touch with the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) since February 2017, when we hosted its team in our London office to provide total transparency on the data we hold, how we process it, and the legal basis for us processing it. I want to make sure we remain committed to helping the ICO in their investigations.

The recent media frenzy has been distressing. The source of allegations against the company is not a whistleblower or a founder of the company. Christopher Wylie was a part-time contractor who left in July 2014 and has no direct knowledge of our work or practices since that date. He was at the company for less than a year, after which he was made the subject of restraining undertakings to prevent his misuse of the company's intellectual property while attempting to set up his own rival firm. 

Cambridge Analytica was formed in 2013, out of a much older company called SCL Elections. Cambridge Analytica is a data science consultancy and marketing agency which does undertake some political work in the US, while SCL Elections is a consultancy focusing on non-US political campaigns. We take the disturbing recent allegations of unethical practices in our non-US political business very seriously. The Board has launched a full and independent investigation into SCL Elections' past practices, and its findings will be made available in due course.

As anyone who is familiar with our staff and work can testify, we in no way resemble the politically-motivated and unethical company that some have sought to portray. Our staff are a talented, diverse and vibrant group of people.

I believe that we should all have more control over our data, and there should be more transparency over how and when it is used. I welcome Europe's new data protection laws (GDPR). There are very good reasons for updating current data regulations, which date back years to a very different time. From giving everyone more protection, to promoting a more equal privacy landscape, these changes will be good for the industry as a whole.

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