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Twitter admits to selling user data to researcher tied to Cambridge Analytica

It seems like Twitter too sold data access to professor Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University academic and the mastermind behind the collection of data on Facebook through a personality quiz. According to Bloomberg, Kogan established Global Science Research (GSR) which had one-time paid API access to “large-scale public Twitter data”.

According to Twitter, the data included a “random sample” of public tweets from December 2014 to April 2015. However, Twitter said it did not find any access to private data by GSR and has since banned Cambridge Analytica from advertising on its platform.

Currently, Twitter sells data to organisations, which is used to analyse sentiment, events and customer service, Bloomberg reported. However, it does not sell private direct messaging data and users are required to opt-in for location to be included in their tweets.

According to Bloomberg, selected companies, developers and users are offered access by Twitter to public data through its application programming interfaces (APIs) or software that requests and delivers information. Enterprise companies have the widest data access, including the last 30 days of tweets and access to tweets from 2006. In order for them to do so, the companies are required to explain how the data will be used and who the end users are.

The hullabaloo caused by Cambridge Analytica has led to Mozilla halting its Facebook advertising, declaring that it will only return if Facebook takes stronger action on how it shares customer data. Closer to home, approximately 65,009 users in Singapore are at risk of having their information improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. Facebook also confirmed that 1,096,666 accounts in Indonesia were at risk as well.

The recent scandal caused Facebook to lose US$60 billlion off its market cap and CEO Mark Zuckerberg even apologised in US congress for the mistake. Even so, advertisers are still continuing to spend on the digital media platform, with the greatest quarter-over-quarter media spend increase coming from travel (129%) and legal/financial (32%) sectors.

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