Cambridge Analytica gathered Facebook data with 'sex compass' quiz

The number of Facebook users who had their data acquired could far exceed 87 million, says a former Cambridge Analytica employee.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read

Brittany Kaiser gave evidence in Parliament on Tuesday.

Screenshot/Katie Collins

Data consultancy Cambridge Analytica acquired Facebook users' personal data through multiple quizes and questionnaires, including one called "sex compass," a former employee told a UK Parliament committee on Tuesday.

As a result, it's likely that the number of Facebook users affected by Cambridge Analytica's data-gatherizg activities far exceeds the previously stated figure of 87 million users, said Brittany Kaiser, who until January worked as a business director for the firm.

Revelations surfaced last month that Cambridge Analytica acquired Facebook user data through a quiz created by University of Cambridge researcher Aleksandr Kogan and his company Global Science Research. Following the revelations, Facebook updated its data policy and informed affected users (including those who'd taken the quiz and their friends) that their data had been acquired by Kogan.

But in written evidence provided to Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, which is investigating the problem of fake news, Kaiser said her former employer acquired data through multiple surveys, not just Kogan's quiz. They were conducted "by CA or its partners, usually with a Facebook login," she said.

"I believe it is almost certain that the number of Facebook users whose data was compromised through routes similar to that used by Kogan is much greater than 87 million, and that both Cambridge Analytica and other unconnected companies and campaigns were involved in these activities," said Kaiser.

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that the company is investigating all apps that had access to large amounts of information before it changed its rules in 2014 to dramatically reduce data access.

"We will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected," he said.

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent 10 hours over two days giving testimony before Congress about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social network's policies for protecting user data and other topics.

Cambridge Analytica downplayed the latest development.

"It's widely known that like other marketing agencies we sometimes collect personality data using a research panel with an appropriate statement of consent," said Cambridge Analytica in a statement. "These surveys are entirely unconnected to the GSR/Kogan data for 30 million users that we lawfully licensed in 2014 and then deleted when Facebook asked us to do so."

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