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Trump-linked data firm Cambridge Analytica harvested data on 50 million Facebook profiles to help target voters

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A data analytics company that helped propel Donald Trump to election victory harvested private information from 50 million Facebook profiles without their permission.

The story exploded over the weekend after Facebook announced late Friday[1] that the data firm had been suspended from the social network for using the data to determine who voters might choose at the ballot box.

Several news organizations, including The New York Times[2], The Guardian's weekend newspaper Observer[3], and prominent UK broadcast news show Channel 4 News[4] had obtained data and documents from a former Cambridge Analytica staffer turned whistleblower earlier this week.

The New York Times[5] called the incident "one of the largest data leaks in the social network's history," later referring to it as a "breach."

Although most US states have laws mandating firms to report data breaches and exposures, it's not believed that Facebook has informed any state regulator of the exposure of user's data.

Facebook's general counsel Paul Grewal said in a statement[6] it was "completely false" to call the incident a "data breach." Carole Cadwalladr, who co-wrote The Guardian's story, said in a tweet[7] that Facebook threatened to sue the newspaper, saying it was "false and defamatory" to call the incident a data breach.

That hair-splitting isn't likely to fill the 50 million affected users with confidence, either in Facebook, the company's ability to police its own platform form abuses and influences, or the democratic process.

Grewal said that the social networking giant learned earlier in the week that London-based Cambridge Analytica, used by campaigns to strategically target personalized political messages, and its parent company Strategic

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