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Facebook data whistleblower says info could be stored in Russia

Christopher Wylie tells Meet the Press the number of Facebook users affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal "could be higher" than 87 million.

wylie-mtp

Christoper Wylie says the number of Facebook users affected by the data scandal could be higher than the 87 million the social network has acknowledged.

NBC

Facebook user data gathered by Cambridge Analytica could come from more users than revealed and is being stored in Russia, according to the former employee who blew the whistle on the scandal.

Former Cambridge Analytica data analyst Christopher Wylie said during Sunday's episode of NBC's Meet the Press that the number of Facebook users whose personal information was accessed by the digital consultancy "could be higher" than the 87 million users already acknowledged by the social network.

"There is a genuine risk that this data has been accessed by quite a few people," Wylie said on the program, "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 was referring to a Cambridge lecturer named Aleksandr Kogan, who collected the data legitimately through a personality quiz app but then violated Facebook's terms by sharing the information with Cambridge Analytica, a firm later hired by the Trump presidential campaign during the 2016 US election.

Facebook learned of the infraction in 2015 but didn't inform the public. Instead, the company demanded that all the parties involved destroy the information. But now there are reports that not all the data was deleted.

The data could have been copied several times after it left Facebook's database, Wylie said when he was asked whether Facebook could determine how many people had access to the information.

"I know that Facebook is now starting to take steps to rectify that and start to find out who had access to it and where it could have gone, but ultimately it's not watertight to say that we can ensure that all the data is gone forever," he said.

Facebook reiterated on Sunday that the 87 million figure is the social network's estimate of the maximum number of users whose data could have been transferred to Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica, for its part, has said through a series of statements that the allegations against it are incorrect and that it acted appropriately.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly apologized for his company's involvement in the scandal in TV interviews as well as newspaper ads and agreed to testify before Congress on Tuesday to answer questions about how his company uses and protects the data of its more than 2 billion users.

But Zuckerberg has reportedly declined to appear in person to answer similar questions to the UK's Parliament -- a stance Wylie criticized in his interview.

"Why is it that Mark Zuckerberg won't actually bother to come and attend a Parliamentary inquiry here in the UK, as everyone else is?" he said.

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